Sports TV News
How Far Will ESPN Go to Heal NFL Relationship?
Last week, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro told The Washington Post that the network had informed the NFL that it would not be showing the playing of the national anthem before games as a courtesy to the league. He said it was part of a larger effort to show the NFL just how much ESPN values their partnership.
In his mailbag column this week, The Athletic‘s Richard Deitsch was asked what that larger effort might entail. Specifically, the email wanted to know if the NFL could demand an end to any investigative reporting done on the league, its teams, or its players. Deitsch didn’t go so far as to say it would put an end to investigative reporting, but Pitaro’s comments do put the network’s reporters in an interesting situation.
I think the journalists who do investigative work would be wise to be concerned. ESPN is undoubtedly going to continue to cover the NFL daily and will break plenty of compelling stories that involve players etc … But will we see deep investigative pieces on the issues that really chafe at the NFL brass (concussions, ownership scandals, the nexus between social justice and the national anthem policy)? That’s the large question because the reality is fellow NFL media rightsholders are not doing those stories on the league. (And if you think the NFL hasn’t punished ESPN for being a reporting pain in the behind, I have a monorail to sell you in North Haverbrook — just look at ESPN’s Monday Night Football schedule prior to this year.)
Deitsch added that the network itself is in a curious spot. It makes sense that ESPN values its relationship with the NFL, but it has to value its reporters too, as that is what makes ESPN’s NFL coverage different from the coverage provided by any of the league’s other TV partners.
The reality is that what is best for ESPN’s business is to avoid covering stories that tick NFL owners off. But I’d argue ESPN’s journalism is also something that separates it from every other sports media entity in partnership with professional leagues.
The outlet that Deitsch worries would be most affected by any editorial mandates from the corporate level is Outside the Lines. The show has already lost its Monday time slot during the NFL season, and with its long time leader Bob Ley taking a 6 month sabbatical, Deitsch worries that OTL will lose some of its strength.
For its part though, ESPN has already told Deitsch that it is still committed to OTL. It is hard though to read Pitaro’s comments and not see the network taking OTL off the air the same night it is airing NFL games as a way to distance the show from the league.
Sports TV News
Charles Barkley ‘Was so Mad’ at ESPN Coverage of LeBron James
“We all love LeBron, [but] he didn’t say he was retired yet. It should’ve been all about the Denver Nuggets.”
When the Denver Nuggets advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in the 47-year history of the franchise, ESPN showed the team’s celebration for all of four seconds. It then quickly switched to a shot of LeBron James, stoic but obviously disappointed, walking through the tunnel back to the Los Angeles Lakers locker room.
Tuesday on ESPN’s First Take, JJ Redick criticized the network’s NBA coverage for highlighting larger markets and a small faction of players considered to be “superstars.” There’s no way to tell if Charles Barkley was watching, but Redick’s point is one he agreed with.
That night on Inside the NBA, Barkley said he was annoyed with the amount of attention put on LeBron James after the game. He wanted to see the reactions of Nuggets stars Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray and head coach Michael Malone to making the NBA Finals. Instead, he and other viewers were inundated with more content centered around the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I was so mad this morning I actually turned the TV off,” Barkley said last night on Inside the NBA, “because the Denver Nuggets sweep and get to the Finals for the first time. We all love LeBron, [but] he didn’t say he was retired yet. It should’ve been all about the Denver Nuggets.”
James, for the record, did not even say that he was seriously considering retiring. In a post-game press conference following the Lakers’ elimination, he said he “had a lot to think about” in the offseason.
The Walt Disney Company has reported its most-watched NBA playoffs on ESPN platforms in the last 11 years, according to data provided by Nielsen Media Research. The games have averaged approximately 5.6 million viewers, a 9% increase from the year prior. Moreover, Game 4 between the Nuggets and Lakers peaked at around 11.5 million viewers from the 11 to 11:15 p.m. EST quarter hour window, and averaged 8.2 million over the duration of the contest.
Sports TV News
ESPN Layoffs Resume, NFL & NBA Talent Likely To See Biggest Cuts
“The company is beginning its latest phase of layoffs this week with Vice President of Research, Insights and Analytics Barry Blyn receiving a pink slip Wednesday morning.”
ESPN will look to slash $30 million in salary as The Walt Disney Company’s layoffs continue, with a majority of it coming from talent covering the NFL and NBA. The network’s goal is to have the layoffs completed by the end of June according to a report by Front Office Sports.
Through it all, Max Kellerman’s afternoon television show This Just In could be canceled in order to slot Pat McAfee’s show into the daily programming lineup. Kellerman’s show airs from 2 to 3 p.m. EST, meaning more moves could be on the way to hold McAfee’s statement that his show will air immediately following First Take, which concludes at noon.
Employee morale at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol is reportedly quite low, with people questioning why the company chose to pay McAfee and lay off a litany of its dedicated and longtime staffers.
The company is beginning its latest phase of layoffs this week with Vice President of Research, Insights and Analytics Barry Blyn receiving a pink slip Wednesday morning. More names are surely to follow as The Worldwide Leader looks to do its part to contribute to Disney cutting $5.5 billion in costs. The final round is expected to impact 2,500 employees in different areas of the company.
The company expects to report its own earnings for the first time this November, and sources have stated that the numbers will be impressive. Conducting the layoffs in separate rounds and saving on-air talent for last, however, has certainly played a role in public perception of the moves, and this week’s round will largely impact executives and other personnel behind the scenes.
Sports TV News
Eli Manning: ‘People Enjoy’ When ManningCast Has to Apologize for Language
“We get a lot of curse words, some from Peyton, some from guests.”
The ManningCast on ESPN has become appointment viewing for select Monday Night Football games. Eli Manning loves the fun, laid-back nature of the show he and brother Peyton put on for fans.
But with live TV, sometimes unpredictable things happen, and sometimes people use profanity. Eli, speaking on Tuesday at the 4se sports and entertainment event in New York City, said viewers get a kick out of when the two let occasional profanities slip and have to scramble to say sorry.
“We get a lot of curse words, some from Peyton, some from guests,” he said. “I feel like we’re apologizing for a lot of things on the show, but I guess people enjoy that part.”
Manning has said previously that the goal is for viewers to get the sense that Peyton and Eli are right there with them on their couch watching the game. Eli said it’s been fun getting to show some authenticity now that he’s retired.
“When I was playing, there was a conscious effort; I didn’t want either my fans or coaches to think I had a life outside of football,” he said. “Once I retired, I realized I didn’t have to hold back.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.