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Emily Kaplan Discusses New Role as Sideline Reporter for ESPN

Before this season, Emily Kaplan hoped to get a “couple of games” on the sideline for ESPN’s hockey coverage. Now, she’s the network’s top sideline reporter.

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Emily Kaplan
Jeff Haynes/ESPN Images

When ESPN got the NHL back on its network, Emily Kaplan saw it as an opportunity to expand her coverage of the sport.

Before this season, she was writing about the sport for ESPN.com. This year, she got the chance to add something else to her resume: sideline reporting.

On The Block Party with Seth Kushner podcast, Kaplan said she went to her bosses to ask if she could try sideline reporting this year. She never imagined it would lead to her being on the opening night broadcast on the network’s lead coverage team:

“I had some initial conversations with the big bosses and I pretty much said I’d love to try sideline reporting. It was something I always wanted to add to my repertoire. I think I would be good at it… If you could give me 1-2 games of experience, that would be great, maybe I’d grow from that. Then, when I found out that I was going to be on the opening night broadcast from Tampa Bay as they raised the banner, I just had chills. That’s something I couldn’t even dream about.”

Sometimes being a sideline reporter means having to ask the tough questions when someone’s struggling. Kaplan did receive some criticism during the Rangers-Hurricanes series last round when she was interviewing Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour about benching goalie Anti Raanta when Raanta was right in front of her.

She discussed it with Julie Stewart-Bunks over the weekend on The Third Period NHL Live Show on Twitter in the link below. Kaplan mentioned that the key to having success on sideline reporting is to be the vehicle for the viewer:

For me, it’s all about being economical with words. I have such tiny windows in hockey to get on-air. It is such a fast-paced game. My biggest fear is talking over a goal and robbing the viewer of that moment. For me, the little stresses right beforehand is I need to be directed with every word that I say has to be intentional.

“For me, my philosophy behind questions is I’m just there as the vehicle. People don’t really care about my opinion right now. I’m just there to get the subject to open up… Sometimes, I get a little bit of jitters. I think that’s natural. In this job, like any job, it’s all about reps. The more I’ve done it, the more natural it has been.”

One thing Kaplan is tired of hearing criticism about is wearing a mask during interviews. She wanted to make it clear that while some fans might be distracted by it, it is a required by the NHL to wear a mask while interviewing players and coaches:

“I’m really tired of it. I think it’s unfortunate that it’s becoming distracting. For me, I just want people to focus on my work, focus on the interviews I’m doing, focusing on the subjects and the answers I get out of those subjects. Unfortunately, it seems like 50% of the tweets I receive, and one of the reasons I have not been checking my Instagram and DMs and things like that, is because people just want to yell and shout at me.”

“The reason I wear a mask while I interview players and coaches is because the NHL requires me to. I would not be able to do my job if I didn’t. They literally won’t let me turn on the camera. So, that’s why I do it. I understand it’s distracting and frustrating for viewers. It is what it is.”

You can catch Kaplan reporting on the action during the rest of the Eastern Conference final for ESPN as well as the upcoming Stanley Cup Final later this month on ABC as part of the broadcast team with Sean McDonaugh and Ray Ferraro.

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Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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