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Rachel Nichols Off NBA Programming At ESPN

“Nichols’ show The Jump is ending in the next few weeks, and she is off the air with more than a year left on her ESPN contract.”

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: ESPN

The final shoe has dropped in the Rachel Nichols saga at ESPN. Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports that Nichols is off all NBA programming effective immediately.

It’s not known how much of a factor Nichols’ leaked conversation about Maria Taylor landing the NBA Countdown hosting gig played into the decision. Regardless, Nichols’ show The Jump is ending in the next few weeks, and she is off the air with more than a year left on her ESPN contract.

“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned,” ESPN Senior VP/Production David Roberts said in a statement to SBJ. “Rachel is an excellent reporter, host, and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content.”

Roberts started overseeing NBA production at ESPN a couple of weeks ago, making this his first big shakeup with more on the way. Sources told SBJ to expect quite a few changes on the studio side of programming. The Jump will carry out its final episodes with guest hosts.

Nichols faced controversy earlier this summer for claiming ESPN chose Maria Taylor as NBA Countdown host because of her race in a conversation with sports PR exec Adam Mendelsohn. Those comments were recorded through Nichols studio set up in her Orlando bubble hotel room and spread to different ears throughout the company.

The Jump has been a success at ESPN since launching in early-2016. Viewers have praised Nichols for making the show her own. The Sports Emmys nominated her for Best Host this year. All while the show as a whole was nominated for an award at the ceremony a year prior.

None of that made Roberts flinch in his decision as the network inserts another shakeup to their television lineup. Ourand reports that ESPN will unveil a new daily NBA show prior to next season, but no firm details have surfaced. They don’t have much time to reel in all the pieces as the 2021 NBA season starts in less than two months.

Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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Sports TV News

Greg Olsen Believes He and Kevin Burkhardt Can Handle Games ‘On Any Stage’

“Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

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Greg Olsen

Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen are on tap to call Super Bowl LVII in February, and Olsen told Front Office Sports he has the confidence to announce the game with no hesitations.

“If you’re asking me, I think Kevin and I have shown that we can handle a game on any stage – on any day. We just did it on Thanksgiving. We’ll do it again around Christmas. And obviously throughout the [NFL] Playoffs,” said Olsen. “So whatever decision they make. Obviously, the bosses get paid a lot to make hard decisions. You have to obviously do what your bosses decide. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“But as of now, I anticipate Kevin and I, the two of us, with Erin and Tom down on the sidelines, the four of us, broadcasting the Super Bowl in February in Arizona. Until I’m told otherwise, that’s how we’re proceeding.”

Olsen also told FOS he has negotiated a new contract with FOX Sports, but declined to share details. He is slated to be replaced on the top broadcast crew once Tom Brady ends his playing career. Brady will then begin a 10-year, $375 million contract to serve as the network’s top NFL game analyst and brand ambassador.

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