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NBC Turns Conference Call Into Doc Emrick Tribute

“Among those that participated were NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood, NHL Comissioner Gary Bettman, and NBC colleagues Al Michaels and Eddie Olczyk.”

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NBC hosted a conference call on Monday to give the media a chance to speak to Mike “Doc” Emrick in the wake of announcing his retirement. While plenty of reporters and hosts got to ask questions, the call took an unexpected turn for some.

The network invited NBC and NHL colleagues to join the call. They were introduced as special guests before offering words of praise and congratulations to Emrick. Among those that participated were NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood, NHL Comissioner Gary Bettman, and NBC colleagues Al Michaels and Eddie Olczyk.

Bettman told Emrick that he was “just a treasure,” noting that hockey is not going to be the same without his passion.

“There’s nobody who does a play-by-play as well as you do,” the Commissioner said. “And I just want to thank you for all of the incredible energy and effort you’ve given us and our fans, in particular the insights you give them to the game. The experience you give them watching hockey is just outstanding, and both personally and professionally we’re going to miss you. I’m going to miss you.”

Eddie Olczyk started by thanking Emrick for welcoming him as a teammate 14 years ago when the duo was first put together by NBC brass. He went on to say that even if the messages have not gone directly to Emrick, he has heard from plenty of people in the league that want to pass well wishes onto the legendary play-by-play man.

“My phone, my email has been swamped since late last night. Been hard conversations with a lot of people, communicating with our teammate Brian Boucher, Jonesy, and hearing from legendary hockey players like Ron Francis, Denis Savard, sending their well wishes, players like Ulf Samuelsson and Luke Richardson, Todd Marchant. The appreciation for everything you have given to our game is that we’re all much better for having you in our lives and we will miss you.”

Al Michaels was the final “special guest” to participate in the call. He compared Doc Emrick to his former partner John Madden. He noted that while Madden won a Super Bowl and is remembered as a great coach, it was his contributions as a broadcaster that made the biggest impact on the NFL. Michaels said he hopes fans know that Emrick had the same kind of impact on hockey.

“So in your retirement I would like you to create a video game,” Michaels said. “Because I think of you much as I think of John Madden, as a man who has been as important to the National Hockey League as anybody, and I say that because you have made the game so much more relevant, interesting, relatable, exciting, and I think just in listening to you, people who love hockey and are in that cult, but we love you, and you’ve also brought a lot of people into the game who might not otherwise have paid attention to hockey.”

Emrick was a little sheepish about all of the love. In fact, was the call ended, he was more concerned about what wasn’t said than what was. He asked the call moderator to please offer any reporters that wanted to ask a question but did not get the chance to an email address. Emrick said he would be happy to respond to questions there to make sure everyone got what they needed.

Sports TV News

Super Wild Card Weekend Ratings Down Slightly From Last Year

Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers over linear television and streaming platforms.

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Ratings for nearly every Super Wild Card game of the NFL Playoffs opening weekend have been released, and while the numbers are encouraging on a per-game basis, overall, they show a slight dip from last season.

ESPN was first to unveil their ratings, showing Monday’s contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — which aired on both ESPN and ABC — was watched by an average of 30.6 million viewers. That number is the largest NFL audience from the Disney-owned channels since Super Bowl XL in February of 2006. The 30.6 million viewers number is a 32% increase from last season’s game that saw the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals.

“This exceptional number proves once again that live sports are unequaled in amassing large audiences,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “The success is also a clear reflection of how ESPN, working alongside the NFL and our colleagues at Disney, can help attract fans, build anticipation, and expand our reach. Even without a dramatic ending, it was an extraordinarily memorable evening.”

When final viewership totals are announced, it is expected that the game will be the largest NFL Playoff broadcast in the history of The Walt Disney Company’s ownership of ABC/ESPN, which began in 1996.

FOX Sports touted the highest viewership total of the weekend, with 33.2 million viewers watching the New York Giants defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The broadcast peaked at over 40 million viewers in the final minutes of the game.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s San Francisco 49ers win over the Seattle Seahawks saw an average audience of 27.4 million.

An average of 28.6 million watched the Cincinnati Bengals thrilling triumph over the Baltimore Ravens on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. According to the network, the broadcast was the most-watched Sunday primetime program since Super Bowl LVI in February of 2022. Ratings for the Jaguars and Chargers broadcast on Saturday were not made available, but NBC Sports did claim that for the first time since 2021 both of its broadcasts eclipsed an average of 20 million viewers.

Finally, CBS Sports scored it’s most-watched Sunday AFC Wild Card game in nearly a decade as 30.8 million watched the Buffalo Bills defeat the Miami Dolphins. Similar to other broadcasts, the game peaked with nearly 40 million viewers. Coincidentally, the game was the most-streamed Wild Card game in the history of the network’s streaming platform, Paramount+.

Even with several networks experiencing noticeable highs, the numbers are a slight decrease from 2022. Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers on linear television and streaming platforms.

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Sports TV News

Mad Dog To Stephen A. Smith: ‘Can We Move On From This Stupid Book?’

“You’ve made a fortune. We get it! The book’s not bad! We can move on!”

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Stephen A. Smith is a busy man this week as he hits the interview circuit to promote his new memoir Straight Shooter. Some of those interview obligations have taken the First Take host away from the ESPN show that made him a star. His friend and part-time partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo wants to make sure Smith has his priorities straight.

“Your meal ticket is here, in that chair,” he said on Wednesday’s edition of First Take. “Your meal ticket is not on these radio shows; not on these TV shows. How dare you miss openings of shows to do radio or TV interviews!”

The segment was clearly done tongue-in-cheek as both men smiled through the interaction, but Mad Dog let Smith have it. He said that he was already sick of the book.

“Enough already! You’ve made a fortune. We get it! The book’s not bad! We can move on! Can we move on from this stupid book? I’ve had enough of Straight Shooter!

Molly Qerim and Marcus Spears laughed as they looked on. Qerim even added that she hoped Dave Roberts, ESPN’s head of NBA and studio production, who oversees First Take, was watching.

After Mad Dog’s rant was over, Smith had a chance to fire back. He stayed calm and simply pointed out that while Russo may be sick of the promotional tour for the book, he is feeding the beast.

“Where am I appearing on today? You said you’re tired of the book, but you’re talking to me at 4 o’clock.”

Smith and Russo will likely continue the theatrical tete-a-tete on Wednesday afternoon on SiriusXM channel 84.

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Sports TV News

Bomani Jones: Marcus Spears Doesn’t Treat Broadcasting Like It’s Easy

“I appreciate when athletes get into our space and show the same respect for this craft that you show for your own.”

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There are plenty of former athletes on the payroll of sports networks all over the world. On his podcast on Wednesday, Bomani Jones noted that not all of them treat their transition into broadcasting like it requires work. He told Marcus Spears that he can tell the former Dallas Cowboy does.

“This job is not easy. I think a lot of people think they can just float in here and get it, and it was very clear early that no, you were not that,” Jones said on Wednesday’s episode of The Right Time.

Jones would know how difficult it can be to cut through in the media business. He is currently producing three episodes of his ESPN podcast each week while also preparing for the second season of his HBO show Game Theory to debut on Sunday night. This year, he also added regular appearances on CNN This Morning to his workload.

He attributes some of Marcus Spears’ appeal to the fact that Spears is from Louisiana, growing up in Baton Rouge. Bomani Jones noted that the culture of that state plays very well on television.

“Oh, you’re so familiar, and I mean that in the best way possible.”

ESPN keeps Spears busy. On television, he is a regular on both Get Up and NFL Live. He also makes appearances on First Take when called upon, as well as hosting a podcast with Kendrick Perkins for the company.

Jones said that he knows none of those opportunities came to Marcus Spears by accident. Spears first joined the company when the SEC Network launched and worked his way up over the years. Jones notes that requires a kind dedication that isn’t unfamiliar to Spears. 

“I appreciate when athletes get into our space and show the same respect for this craft that you show for your own.”

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