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Disney Exploring Kid-Friendly NFL Broadcast

“It’s clear that there is a marketplace for engaging younger fans, and the league isn’t getting in the way.”

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: Disney

Get ready for more niche broadcasts from the NFL’s partners. Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports that Disney is exploring their own kids-themed NFL broadcasts to match the Nickelodeon broadcast during the Wild Card Playoff game.

ViacomCBS, Nickelodeon’s parent company, instituted the new format for last year’s Chicago Bears Wild Card loss to the New Orleans Saints. It was a big hit for Nickelodeon, which is now diving deeper into NFL coverage with a weekly show dedicated to the sport. They are also bringing the “slime game” back in January.

“Look, Disney invented kids’ entertainment,” a source told Front Office Sports. “They’ve had to sit back watching Nickelodeon and CBS pound their chests all year. Well, Disney thinks they can do it better when it comes to reaching kids and families.”

The options for Disney are wide-ranging, from a Star Wars-themed broadcast that could pit the Rebels against the Empire or a similar format to their Avengers NBA broadcast from earlier this year. Disney afforded ESPN access to Marvel properties for their “Arena of Heroes” game between the New Orleans Pelicans and Golden State Warriors on May 3.

Disney and the NFL declined to comment on the report to FOS as the mouse house works to finalize their plan to use during a Monday Night Football broadcast down the line or for their Wild Card game.

Whatever they end up agreeing to, it’s clear that there is a marketplace for engaging younger fans, and the league isn’t getting in the way. McCarthy noted that the NFL’s chief media and business officer, Brian Rolapp, is encouraging broadcast partners to dive into their imagination with alternate broadcasts.

“Collaboration across Nickelodeon, CBS Sports, and NFL Media will allow us to deliver authentic and fun NFL coverage all season long,” Said Amanda Herald, vice president of NFL marketing strategy and insights when the league expanded their Nickelodeon relationship.

Traditional and new media lines are blurring more and more every day, making it inevitable that Mickey Mouse, Darth Vader, or Iron Man gets involved in the gridiron action.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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