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Chris Fowler Explains Bizarre US Open Ending

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Richard Deitsch is a very well connected sports media reporter. When it’s appropriate, he will devote part of his weekly “Media Circus” column at The Athletic to a broadcaster to allow him/her to explain in their own words how they experienced a major moment in sports. This week, that spotlight falls on Chris Fowler of ESPN.

Fowler led the network’s play-by-play coverage of the US Open and was on the call of the absolutely crazy women’s final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. Chair umpire Carlos Ramos handed out three conduct violations to Serena, which cost the greatest tennis player of all time a full game. It wasn’t the sole reason she lost the match to Osaka, but it did play a role in the outcome.

Fowler wrote that he has a lot of respect for Ramos and fans of the game know that he is a stickler for the rules, especially when it comes to coaching, which is the violation he cited Serena and her coach for. Fowler thought the game penalty went too far though.

I felt that Ramos had gone too far in his penalties. I qualified it that “given the gravity, many would say restraint is called for.” I’d stand by that. Umpiring is not only about the letter of law, but wisdom and judgment. They should do their best to not play a principal role in the outcome.

As for how the strange series of events was handled on the broadcast, Fowler says that his colleagues made the difference. First, he noted the advantage of having a color commentator like Chrissie Evret, who is one of the few people in the world that has truly been in Serena Williams’s shoes.

We showed the signal and Chrissie (Evert) was clear in her opinion: It WAS coaching. She said that Serena saw it and was taking Patrick’s advice by coming forward. I thought she was very strong on that. Chrissie is a fellow great who is close to Serena, but that didn’t influence her take. I thought Chrissie was strong and balanced throughout with her opinions.

Fowler also gave credit to Mary Jo Fernandez for her sideline reporting. He noted that Fernandez’s relationship with Serena made her analysis of the situation stand out as part of the on-court coverage, which was a pivotal part of telling the story of the match.

I was pleased our courtside mics caught most of the exchanges. It is very loud in Ashe Stadium with the roof shut. Difficult acoustics for all. As long as the mics are up, the most important thing is to stay out of the way and let viewers hear as much as possible, stepping in only when you think background noise got in the way or something needed clarifying, which I did. Mary Jo Fernandez added a lot from courtside. She was picking up on all of Serena’s emotions and knows her very well. Her descriptions were concise and on point.  

Fowler said he is proud of how he and his colleagues handled the broadcast. The full essay is well worth your time, so if you have a subscription to The Athletic, click here and give Deitsch’s “Media Circus” column a read.

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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