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Jim Cramer: Disney Restructuring Is About Getting Rid Of ESPN

“Cramer says that with revenues down and the network still on the hook for some huge broadcast rights fees, ESPN may cost too much to fit into Disney’s new model.”

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CNBC investment strategist Jim Cramer spoke with TheStreet.com about Disney’s restructuring to focus on its streaming businesses this week. He said that the decision does not indicate the company wants to stay in the sports media business.

“I think it’s really about getting rid of ESPN,” Cramer said. “There is a belief we’re saturated in sports. That ESPN is no longer integral.”

ESPN was hit particularly hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Ratings for the network hit a 41-year-low while the sports world hit the pause button earlier this year. Reports of a coming round of major layoffs loom large over the company.

All this news comes on top of the cord-cutting problems ESPN and other networks have dealt with for the better part of a decade now. Cramer says that with revenues down and the network still on the hook for some huge broadcast rights fees, ESPN may cost too much to fit into Disney’s new model.

“ESPN used to be this unbelievable thing, and now it’s just a really expensive thing they are having trouble monetizing. ESPN is no longer the precious place that it once was.”

ESPN+ was one of the digital products that Disney CEO Bob Chapek touted as outperforming all projections the company had for it. That doesn’t necessarily prove Cramer’s belief is wrong, but perhaps Disney does have a vision of an all-digital future for ESPN. In order for an all-digital future to look at all familiar to ESPN fans, the network would need its play-by-play partners to buy in in a BIG way.

If Cramer is right though and Disney wants out of the sports media business entirely, it will be very intriguing to see how the company is sold. There would be plenty of interest, but would Disney be better off selling ESPN as a single business or selling the broadcast networks, the radio network, and the digital properties individually?

Sports TV News

FanDuel TV Strikes Deal With ONE Championship Martial Arts

“We’ve long respected the content the ONE Championship team is producing and are looking forward to bringing their action to our audience through FanDuel TV and FanDuel+.”

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FanDuel TV and ONE Championship Martial Arts have struck a deal that will see the MMA, Muay Thai, kickboxing, and submission grappling series air weekly events on the newly launched channel.

“We’re eager to continue expanding the variety of content we’re offering at FanDuel TV to introduce our audience to emerging sports,” said FanDuel Chief Commercial Officer Mike Raffensperger. “We’ve long respected the content the ONE Championship team is producing and are looking forward to bringing their action to our audience through FanDuel TV and FanDuel+.”

ONE Championship is a top-five global sports property for digital viewership and engagement according to Nielsen measurements.

“We are thrilled to join the FanDuel TV lineup and give our passionate U.S. audience yet another way to engage with ONE Championship,” said ONE Championship Chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong. “Having a quality partner in FanDuel will help raise the profile of our company in the region and provide their viewers with action-packed martial arts events like they have never seen before.”

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Sports TV News

Bob Costas Re-Lives First Announcing Assignment For NBC

“My biography usually says I began with them in 1980, but technically the first time I was on the air with them was in December 1979.”

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Legendary sports broadcaster Bob Costas appeared on KNBR’s Tolbert & Copes Thursday to discuss the death of Baseball Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. But before the conversation turned to the recently departed pitcher, the show asked Costas about what he has announced that would surprise someone. He reminisced about his first time on the air for NBC.

“My very first assignment for NBC, my biography usually says I began with them in 1980, but technically the first time I was on the air with them was in December 1979,” Costas recounted. “There was a program on NBC then called Sports World. It was an anthology series that was their answer to the gold standard, ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

“So they traveled the globe, like Wide World of Sports did. So they sent me, wearing a red NBC jacket, to Tokyo to cover a sumo wrestling tournament with seven-time world power-lifting champion Larry Pacifico as my color man. Now, this is all the Japanese I learned as we came on the air: ‘Minasan kon’nichwa watashinoamaeha Bob Costas’, which means ‘Hello everyone, my name is Bob Costas’. If ever there was typecasting, when they sat and looked at their roster of announcers and went ‘Who should we send to the sumo wrestling? It’s gotta be Costas, who’s entire body weight would constitute one meal for the sumo wrestling champion.”

Costas departed NBC Sports in 2019 after 40 years with the network, announcing MLB, NBA, and the Olympics, in addition to his work with the network’s sumo wrestling coverage.

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Sports TV News

Matt Leinart, Alex Smith Make Wager Over Pac-12 Championship Game

“I gotta be honest with you: I’m not that nervous. I know that sounds kind of arrogant and confident.”

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FOX Sports analyst Matt Leinart and ESPN analyst Alex Smith have made a friendly wager over the upcoming Pac-12 Championship Game.

USC, Leinart’s alma mater, is slated to play Utah, where Smith attended, in the game Friday evening on FOX from Las Vegas.

The two agreed to don the other player’s jersey. “At least it will be 11,” Smith said, noting he and Leinart both wore the number during their playing days.

“I gotta be honest with you: I’m not that nervous,” Leinart said when presented with the offer. “I know that sounds kind of arrogant and confident.” Smith jokingly responded by calling USC “Free Agent University”. He added he would overnight Leinart a jersey to ensure he had one if the Utes were victorious.

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