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Berman Talks About His Career on SI Media Podcast

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One of the most legendary names in ESPN history is the subject of Jimmy Traina’s latest SI Media Podcast. He offered insight into his long career, including discussing the way he dealt with criticism he received in the later years of his run on ESPN’s various NFL shows.

I don’t poo-poo it, but as long as any of us do the job to the best of our ability. When a critic — and there weren’t very many — said ‘boy he’s unprepared.’ Whoa, whoa, whoa, woooaahhh, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. ‘I don’t like the nicknames.’ Fine. ‘He’s too loud.’ Fine. ‘He makes it about himself.’ False, but if you want to write that, fine. But you didn’t see me in the ’80s and the ’90s every night to know that I’m at least true to myself. It’s like if you met me on the street, [and] probably on the air, it’d sound like we’ve been for the last 40 minutes. So I’m not smart enough to be an actor. But if everyone says, ‘he’s unprepared, he’s out of touch’ – do you know who I talk to during the week? Don’t be writing that. And there hasn’t been a lot of that. People are smart enough for that.

He also told an amazing story about how George Brett made it possible for Berman to keep incorporating nicknames into his highlight calls. According to Berman, a senior producer at SportsCenter told him to stop at one point in 1985.

I’m not sure why he was guided that way, because the nicknames were kind of, you didn’t really need to have to know the position, or the player, or the team to get them. They were based on life, or rock n’ roll, or food, they were a play on words. When you had Bert “Be Home By Eleven” (Blyleven), someone might be watching the show who’s not a riveted baseball fan, who might not know that Blyleven’s a pitcher, or is with the Pirates, or what have you. But “Be Home By Eleven”.

It was late in the season in ’85 and [he said] ‘No, you can’t do those any more.’ First of all, it’s like September 10, so if you’re smart, you wouldn’t eliminate them until like November, and then no one would notice. And each reason he gave didn’t make sense, but again, I’m just a young kid, I’m only 30. But people loved them, the players loved them. None of them were derogatory, they may not all have been genius, but then again, what is? But ‘You can’t do it,’ and the only thing I said to him was ‘I don’t think you understand what the people feel about this. We are a people-serving business.

Such a move is unimaginable now to all of us that grew up watching Boomer. It was unimaginable then to someone with a little more cache in the sports world.

I remember, I was very good friends with players my age, and one of the biggest fans of the nicknames was George Brett, Hall of Famer, great guy, great player. And they were going to the postseason. And I called him to wish him luck with a week to go or whatever it was, ‘Good luck, I’ll be rooting for you, I don’t know if I’ll get to the World Series or whatever it was, I don’t cover that, oh, by the way, I can’t do the nicknames any more.’ And he exploded over the phone. I said ‘Well, don’t worry about it,’ you know, whatever.

And I was not there at Game 1 (of the American League Championship Series), Kansas City played Toronto, and I guess all the news media gathered around him at the workout the day before, because he’s George Brett, right? And George Grande went up to him, one of the great people in our early anchors, one of our baseball guys, the baseball guy along with Lou Palmer then, and he said ‘George, can I get you?’ And [Brett] said ‘Wait a minute, hold on.’ And he unloads, not at George Grande personally, but ‘What is your management doing?! I’m not going to watch ESPN any more, they’ve told my guy he can’t do nicknames!’

And among those in the circle was [USA Today sports media columnist] Rudy Martzke, who hadn’t been aware because it was not announced, right? Not ‘He’s not doing them anymore,’ because that would be stupid. But that got written up about eight places the next day, and I’m told that, in the 80s now, that the mail that came when people heard about it, was unprecedented at that time. I’m not saying that meant my stuff was great or this, but the people cared that much that they showered ESPN with letters in 1985. And next season, they were back and he [presumably the producer] was gone.

The whole episode is just over an hour and very much worth your time.

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Sports TV News

Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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