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Dave Roberts Sings Praises Of ESPN TV Lineup

Brandon Contes

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Overseeing ESPN’s radio and TV lineup is a highly scrutinized job. For Dave Roberts, ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Production, the recipe for success features interesting topics, talent and diversity.

Speaking to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, Roberts discussed ESPN’s TV lineup, beginning with the success of Get Up. Mike Greenberg’s weekday morning TV show is the perfect example of needing to fine-tune content, while giving it time to grow.

Get Up has had quite a turnaround thanks to the leadership of Mike Greenberg and his team and also the cast of characters who are on that program,” Roberts said as he referred to the morning television show as a “juggernaut.”

“The No. 1 priority for what makes that program are interesting topics, breaking news coverage equal to those interesting topics and a mix of diverse voices,” Roberts added. “You will see up to six or seven different people on that program from all backgrounds — male, female, Black, white — throughout the week.”

Another show that had a recent rebound under Roberts’ watch is the 6pm edition of SportsCenter. Following a ratings dip during the SC6 era with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith which lasted from 2017-2018, the show returned to its roots to better meet the expectations viewers have for the SportsCenter brand. 

“I don’t want to be perceived as criticizing the people who were on the show prior to the change, because they both were very talented and brought a lot to the table. But our focus with this edition of SportsCenter is to fit those expectations that SportsCenter has, which is to cover the news, show the best and most compelling highlights of the day, put them in context and bring the best that we have in the area of storytelling,” Roberts told Front Office Sports.

One show that continues to perform well is First Take led by Stephen A. Smith. Even after losing Skip Bayless to FS1 in 2016, First Take hasn’t missed a beat with the addition of Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim, along with its move from ESPN2 to ESPN. 

First Take is just an interesting program to watch,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t shy away from topics that others might consider to be controversial. People like to watch and, frankly, people love to watch Steven A. whether they love him or hate him.”

As far as rumors of potentially reuniting Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, Roberts chose not to speculate on the pending free agent when asked by McCarthy.

Sports TV News

NBC Sports Announces Matthew Berry Hire, Will Debut Tonight on Football Night in America

This is truly a full circle moment for me,” said Berry, who served as a fantasy football expert at NBC Sports’ Rotoworld from 1999-2004.

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Matthew Berry

NBC Sports has announced the official hiring of fantasy specialist Matthew Berry. He has agreed to a multi-year deal and will be featured on Peacock, NBC and NBC Sports digital platforms.

The network also announced that Berry will join Football Night in America each week during the NFL season on NBC and Peacock including with his debut tonight leading into the 2022 Hall of Fame Game.

Berry will host a weekly game-day fantasy football and sports betting show on Sundays from 11a-1p ET on Peacock and NBC Sports digital platforms. He will also create a one-hour daily podcast for Peacock, live-listening on NBC Sports Audio and SiriusXM and be available as a downloadable podcast.

We welcome Matthew to the team and are excited to incorporate into our coverage the compelling and industry-shaping commentary that has made him the face of fantasy football for millions of fans,” said Sam Flood, NBC Sports Production Executive Producer & President.

“This is truly a full circle moment for me,” said Berry, who served as a fantasy football expert at NBC Sports’ Rotoworld from 1999-2004. “I started my career at Rotoworld, spent many years there, and not many people are lucky enough to get the chance to come home. I’ve spent my entire life talking fantasy football to anyone that would listen. So when I was offered the chance to join the highest-rated studio show in all of sports, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.”

Berry also added, “Please remind me of this quote the next time I realize millions of people just saw me get a prediction wrong. In the meantime, know that I am incredibly honored and humbled by the opportunity not just to join the FNIA family but also to help build something special on Peacock.”

Berry will provide analysis and content around major NBC Sports events outside of football, including the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, and more.

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Sports TV News

Omaha Productions Building College Football Simulcast Around Pat McAfee

“Manning joked that the network doesn’t want McAfee. It wants Omaha Productions and Omaha wants McAfee.”

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ESPN is bringing its alternate broadcast strategy to college football. Peyton Manning appeared on The Pat McAfee Show Thursday to announce that McAfee and his crew would anchor six alternate broadcasts of major games for Omaha Productions on Saturday nights this season.

“We have officially agreed, alongside Omaha Productions, to simulcast six big-ass college football games this season,” McAfee said. “We will be on ESPN2. The main cast will be on ESPN. Omaha is obviously helping us along the way and we will be running it.”

McAfee said that when he was first approached by Manning he expressed shock that ESPN wanted him on the air. Manning joked that the network doesn’t want McAfee. It wants Omaha Productions and Omaha wants McAfee.

The shows have not yet been scheduled. Most games in college football’s power 5 conferences are not scheduled until the prior week. With the AP Top 25 and CFP Top 25 both changing regularly, they too will play a role in determining what goes into the primetime slot.

Pat McAfee and his crew will be live in their Indianapolis studio. The former punter at the West Virginia University said that the majority of people appearing on the alternate broadcast each week would be in studio, but there would be occasional guests.

“There’s gonna be give aways. There’s gonna be a lot of action I think during this,” he added.

Omaha Productions adds college football to the NFL and the US Open on its roster of alternate broadcasts. The company is also working on a future MMA alternate broadcast.

“I’m honored to be your teammate again, if you will,” Peyton Manning said in response to McAfee thanking him for the platform and opportunity. “You will kill this. You know this. Everybody is fired up to watch. I guarantee it!”

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Sports TV News

ESPN Announces Bill Walton ’30 for 30′ Documentary

The Basketball Hall of Famer is viewed as one of the more eccentric figures in sports history.

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ESPN Films announced Thursday that production has begun on a new 30 for 30 documentary focused on Bill Walton.

The Basketball Hall of Famer is viewed as one of the more eccentric figures in sports history. Combined with his basketball prowess in both college and the NBA, and his love of The Grateful Dead, politics and activism, Walton is often a divisive figure in the sports broadcast world.

ESPN says Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Artis Gilmore, World B. Free,  Robert Parish, Jim Gray, Luke Walton, Jamal Wilkes, Brent Musberger, and Bob Ryan have all been interview subjects for the story.

The documentary will be directed by Steve James, who also directed Hoop Dreams, as well as Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.

No release date was revealed by ESPN. Walton has worked as a college basketball color commentator for the network since 2012. He had previously worked on ESPN’s NBA coverage from 2002-2009.

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