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MLS Turns To ESPN, Disney To Oversee Return Plan

“The plan calls for sending all 26 soccer clubs to Walt Disney World for a proposed tournament played at the resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Teams would also be housed at the Coronado Springs Resort.”

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Relationships with your broadcast partners are important for any sports league. When you don’t have the reach of the NFL or the NBA, those relationships take on added significance. That is why the MLS has turned to ESPN to help facilitate its return to action.

According to a report from The Athletic’s Stan Stejskal, the league is going to rely on the full might of the Walt Disney company to get back to work.

The plan calls for sending all 26 soccer clubs to Walt Disney World for a proposed tournament played at the resort’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Teams would also be housed at the Coronado Springs Resort.

“Sources said that the league views working with Disney and ESPN as the easiest way to return to play,” Stejskal writes. “If it goes to Orlando, MLS would essentially be operating under Disney’s roof. The company owns the resort that would house the league, the facility where teams would play and the network that would broadcast many of the matches.”

If everything goes according to plan, the clubs would use the month of June to train. That would be followed by a tournament that would run through the end of July and guarantee each club plays at least five matches. Four matches would be played per day with no fans would be in the stands.

With Disney having so much control, it stands to reason most of the matches would be broadcast by ESPN. That could cause conflicts with the club’s individual local broadcast deals. Stejskal writes that multiple clubs have “mentioned possible extended pre- and post-game shows and other ancillary programming on local networks as a way to begin to make good on their contracts.”

A tournament like this would be a major investment for Major League Soccer, but while the short-term goal is to get back to work in 2020, the long-term goal has to do with TV rights negotiations in 2022, when the league’s current deals expire. Clubs have been told not to sign local rights deals that run beyond 2022. That likely signals an intention to package MLS rights in national packages, similar to England’s Premier League or the NFL, and having ESPN and Disney as partners in that effort could turn intentions into reality.

Currently, the MLS has national deals with ESPN, FOX, and Univision that were signed in 2015. Over the course of those eight year deals, the 26 MLS clubs will split $720 million. The goal of centralized national TV rights deals would be to grow revenue as the league expands to 30 clubs by 2022 and to strengthen the position of the MLS as the United States, Canada, and Mexico prepare for share hosting responsibilities of FIFA’s World Cup in 2026.

Sports TV News

NBC Officially Unveils Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge as New Big Ten Booth

“With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

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It’s officially official: Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge, and Kathryn Tappen will join the Big Ten on NBC booth when the network begins airing the conference’s football package in 2023.

NBC made the announcement Thursday, after weeks of speculation about the moves.

“We are excited to showcase Big Ten Saturday Night on the NBC Sports’ primetime marquee,” said NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “When you hear Todd’s voice, you know it’s a big college football game. It has been that way for decades.

“Noah is one of the industry’s rising young play-by-play commentators, who has excelled calling numerous sports across multiple platforms for a wide range of audiences. We are thrilled to pair him in the booth with Todd.

“Kathryn has told the stories of so many memorable Notre Dame Football moments over the last decade in her on-field reporting and interviews,” Flood continued. “With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

Blackledge joins NBC after working as a college football analyst for the network for the past 17 seasons. Previously, he was the an analyst for CBS and ABC, making 2023 his 30th consecutive season covering college football as an analyst.

Eagle is the son of broadcasting legend Ian Eagle, and currently serves as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers. He comes to NBC after calling college football games for FOX Sports in 2022.

Tappen has spent the past nine seasons working NBC’s college football coverage with Notre Dame. Eight of those nine seasons were spent as the network’s sideline reporter before anchoring the studio coverage from South Bend in 2022.

2023 will mark the beginning of a seven-year contract for NBC to air Big Ten football games in primetime. The move is one of the biggest notable expansions in the college football arena for the network since its partnership with Notre Dame began in 1991.

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Sports TV News

CBS Tried ‘Intervention’ With Tony Romo

“They knew, they anticipated this. That’s a credit to them, the people in charge there. But it has not gotten better.”

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After his performance during the 2022 season, many have questioned why CBS Sports NFL analyst Tony Romo has seemed off his game after seeing high praise during the early stages of his broadcasting career.

A recent nugget from Andrew Marchand of The New York Post claims CBS executives attempted an “intervention” with Romo before the season.

“Tony Romo needs to study more,” Marchand said during The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast. “He needs to be better prepared. As you move away from the sidelines, you need to do more work. I know CBS is aware of this. They tried an intervention last offseason. They knew, they anticipated this. That’s a credit to them, the people in charge there. But it has not gotten better.”

Marchand also argued that it appears as if Romo’s partner — Jim Nantz — is content to let the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback struggle.

“This was the narrative out of CBS when Romo was getting all of the publicity: you heard from Nantz’ side and people from CBS that Nantz was the one creating Romo,” quipped Marchand. “The issue now is, why isn’t Nantz helping Romo get to this next level?”

Romo — who signed a 10-year, $180 million contract with CBS in 2020 — addressed his critics in an interview with Jenna Lemoncelli of The New York Post, saying he’s simply trying new things.

“I mean, some changes are good, some you’re like, ‘Ah, I shouldn’t do that’. But I always trial and error a bunch and sometimes it works.”

The 42-year-old Romo appeared to push back on the insinuation that he doesn’t prepare for broadcasts like he used to during the interview.

“You’re going to fail all the time, but at the same time, you succeed because of that, as long as you think about it and try to understand how to improve and then go about the process to make that happen, which is work ethic and commitment. But you got to have a plan for it before.”

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Sports TV News

Jason Benetti: Negotiations With Chicago White Sox ‘Kind of A Pain’

“I just thought it would be easier. But just because it wasn’t easier doesn’t mean it didn’t get done.”

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Jason Benetti

Jason Benetti and Steve Stone recently saw their contracts renewed by NBC Sports Chicago to team once more as the television voices of the Chicago White Sox. Benetti says the talks about a renewal weren’t without their hiccups.

In a profile with Chicago Sun-Times writer Jeff Agrest, Benetti said the talks about the situation weren’t exactly what he envisioned.

“The really good news is we got somewhere good,” Benetti said. “It was kind of a pain, really. There were some things that we had to get through that I thought were silly, and I’m sure they thought some of the stuff that I was talking about might’ve been silly. But we got there in the end.”

Agrest reported the Atlanta Braves were watching the situation with bated breath. Their television play-by-play announcer, Chip Caray, recently departed for the same position with the St. Louis Cardinals.

One of the sticking points in the negotiations between the White Sox and Benetti was how many regular season contests he would miss due to his work with FOX Sports. Benetti is announcing MLB and college football games for the network in 2023 and did his first NFL work for FOX Sports this season. Benetti admitted that were points of frustration along the way.

“I think the work has been strong and I appreciate the heck out of the fans and I have loved the Sox for all my life. I just thought it would be easier. But just because it wasn’t easier doesn’t mean it didn’t get done. Where I have put myself, totally honestly, the place I am is we got it done, and that means something. It means both sides wanted it to happen.”

Chicago White Sox Senior Vice President of Revenue and Marketing Brooks Boyer told Agrest he didn’t see any complications in the negotiations.

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