There aren’t a whole lot of people outside of the Walt Disney Company that know as much about ESPN as James Andrew Miller does. He is the author of Those Guys Have All the Fun, the book that documents the history of the network. On Monday, he was featured in Richard Deitch’s column for The Athletic talking about the recent layoffs at ESPN.
The duo discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it brought to broadcasting as the ultimate motivation for so many layoffs in Bristol behind the scenes. About midway through the conversation, Deitsch posed an interesting question: how will the layoffs of so many behind the scenes manifest itself with the on air staff?
Miller said he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they see the writing on the wall and their messages to agents are clear. Forget the raise, give me a longer deal.
“Apart from the Stephen A. (Smith) and probably less than two dozen individuals at ESPN who really have bargaining power and were able to extract significant increases during times like these, it’s not a great time,” he told Deitsch. “(Former CAA Sports head) Nick Khan picked a great era when (former ESPN president) John Skipper decided to be the George Steinbrenner for on-air personnel. There were big contracts and long contracts — and the economics of the time and the threat by FS1 justified it. But now that’s all gone.”
Deitsch says he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they are worried the days of ESPN hiring opinionists are mostly over. Miller isn’t buying it. In fact, he believes the opposite may be true.
“I think sports talk is going to maybe have a whole new renaissance because at the end of the day it’s far less expensive,” he said. “How many sports is ESPN or other competitors really going to be able to afford now, or spend the money on in the future? If you decide that you’re not going to bid on X Sport, you’re still going to have to program that time on your network. So I think that you’re going to start to look at programming and content that is cheaper to produce.”
If that is indeed the case, it obviously would be good news for many in the industry. Miller’s thinking isn’t hard to understand. Yes, the broadcast business has changed because of networks being willing to use tools like Zoom. That means there are fewer production jobs, but he uses other television shows to prove that no one is seeing hosts go away.
“Look, one of the things that started to happen when the pandemic became part of the fabric of our lives is all of a sudden you started to see Jimmy Fallon was in his basement. There was Savannah Guthrie in her home upstairs. This is happening all across all different networks. There was a bunch of us who said this could be the toothpaste out of the tube.”
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+.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Garrett Searight is the Editor of Barrett Sports Media and Barrett News Media. He previously was the Program Director and Afternoon Co-Host on 93.1 The Fan in Lima, OH. He is also a play-by-play announcer for TV and Radio broadcasts in Western Ohio.