Sports TV News
Pablo Torre: ESPN Was Very Diplomatic About Me Joining Meadowlark Media
“As long as it became clear to me that they still wanted me to do that stuff and they had this evolving perspective…Diplomacy is really the answer.”
Last month, it was announced that Pablo Torre was going to stop hosting ESPN Daily and make the move to join Dan Le Batard at Meadowlark Media. While he will continue to be a part of Around The Horn and PTI, it marks an end of an era of hosting over 700 episodes of the ESPN Daily podcast.
Torre was a guest on the Jenkins and Jonez podcast this week and he said ESPN was very diplomatic for allowing him to still be a part of the family of Around The Horn and PTI.
“I realized that Around The Horn and PTI, these shows I have done, I’m functionally family with them. As long as it became clear to me that they still wanted me to do that stuff and they had this evolving perspective of ‘There’s this other thing you could be doing with your other time. We love you on ESPN Daily, but you have this offer that’s out there and you feel strong about it’. Diplomacy is really the answer.”
During the interview, Torre brought up what always got him interested in sports and how he enjoys the fact that he is not limited in terms of what he can talk about in sports.
“Sports is the toy department in the classic imagining of a newspaper. To me, it’s also every section of the newspaper. There’s real shit out there. For me, it’s always been the widest aperture of society and life…I was always passionate about sports as a fan and a writer, but my concern was never that it would be too limiting. Where I came up in sports, it was through magazines (Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine), shows like Dan’s and Around The Horn and PTI, there are ways to talk about so much more. I have never felt limited by it.”
When hosting ESPN Daily, Torre mentioned that he enjoyed the challenge of doing high-production audio storytelling and digging into stories that he was curious about, even if he didn’t have a hot take right away.
“I always prided myself in curiosity. Stuff I don’t have takes on from the jump is the stuff that is often most fascinating. As long as I figured out an angle on it that I found engaging, I knew we could do something with it. So much of it is reliant on these guests that we pull from.
“I had not worked in high-production audio storytelling until ESPN Daily. I was essentially the managing editor of the staff. I got to weigh in on every topic. We also had to manage ‘ESPN has this awesome piece/investigation/documentary/feature. Can you guys do something with it?’ I know this is not The Pablo Torre Show. The challenge was ‘Here’s a topic I don’t know about. Maybe I wasn’t responsible for the piece that we are about to discuss, but what’s the way that we can do it that’s substantive and can push it to another level?’”
From June 2018 until March 2020, Torre hosted High Noon with Bomani Jones on ESPN. While he feels no regrets about any part of the show, he does feel some nostalgia looking back and wonders what would have happened to the show if it debuted in a different format.
“I am so nostalgic for the mission that we had and the big ‘What if’ that you think about now in retrospect is was that more of an internet prospect than a linear television property? What if that was a video podcast show? What would have been different about that? I think the trick of what High Noon was it was trying to subvert a medium.
“What we were trying to do was figure out a way to be ourselves and build chemistry and do the stuff in the daily sports news cycle while also balancing the mandate of we are coming on after First Take…It was an experiment. Then, we went to a half hour in the afternoon, which I wasn’t bothered by, but it ends up changing the very premise and it’s harder to build chemistry in that format.
“I have no regrets about that, but I do have mostly nostalgia for the fact that we tried to have discussions that went to levels that sports television in the linear cable television model just never really had time for in the talk media daily setting.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at RickJKeeler@gmail.com.
Sports TV News
ESPN Layoffs Resume, NFL & NBA Talent Likely To See Biggest Cuts
“The company is beginning its latest phase of layoffs this week with Vice President of Research, Insights and Analytics Barry Blyn receiving a pink slip Wednesday morning.”
ESPN will look to slash $30 million in salary as The Walt Disney Company’s layoffs continue, with a majority of it coming from talent covering the NFL and NBA. The network’s goal is to have the layoffs completed by the end of June according to a report by Front Office Sports.
Through it all, Max Kellerman’s afternoon television show This Just In could be canceled in order to slot Pat McAfee’s show into the daily programming lineup. Kellerman’s show airs from 2 to 3 p.m. EST, meaning more moves could be on the way to hold McAfee’s statement that his show will air immediately following First Take, which concludes at noon.
Employee morale at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol is reportedly quite low, with people questioning why the company chose to pay McAfee and lay off a litany of its dedicated and longtime staffers.
The company is beginning its latest phase of layoffs this week with Vice President of Research, Insights and Analytics Barry Blyn receiving a pink slip Wednesday morning. More names are surely to follow as The Worldwide Leader looks to do its part to contribute to Disney cutting $5.5 billion in costs. The final round is expected to impact 2,500 employees in different areas of the company.
The company expects to report its own earnings for the first time this November, and sources have stated that the numbers will be impressive. Conducting the layoffs in separate rounds and saving on-air talent for last, however, has certainly played a role in public perception of the moves, and this week’s round will largely impact executives and other personnel behind the scenes.
Sports TV News
Eli Manning: ‘People Enjoy’ When ManningCast Has to Apologize for Language
“We get a lot of curse words, some from Peyton, some from guests.”
The ManningCast on ESPN has become appointment viewing for select Monday Night Football games. Eli Manning loves the fun, laid-back nature of the show he and brother Peyton put on for fans.
But with live TV, sometimes unpredictable things happen, and sometimes people use profanity. Eli, speaking on Tuesday at the 4se sports and entertainment event in New York City, said viewers get a kick out of when the two let occasional profanities slip and have to scramble to say sorry.
“We get a lot of curse words, some from Peyton, some from guests,” he said. “I feel like we’re apologizing for a lot of things on the show, but I guess people enjoy that part.”
Manning has said previously that the goal is for viewers to get the sense that Peyton and Eli are right there with them on their couch watching the game. Eli said it’s been fun getting to show some authenticity now that he’s retired.
“When I was playing, there was a conscious effort; I didn’t want either my fans or coaches to think I had a life outside of football,” he said. “Once I retired, I realized I didn’t have to hold back.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
Sports TV News
JJ Redick: ESPN Sells The NBA As ‘Only 5 or 6 Teams Matter’
“To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ elimination from the NBA Playoffs, the matchup between the Association’s two most accomplished clubs – the Lakers and Boston Celtics – is no longer a possibility. On Tuesday morning’s edition of First Take on ESPN, JJ Redick suggested how it would be a seminal occurrence for the NBA to have teams from smaller media markets square off for the championship, familiarizing basketball and sports fans at large with new teams and players.
“We somehow have sold the NBA as a league where only five or six teams matter and a league where only five or six players matter,” Redick said on the program. “To me, this could be a watershed moment for the NBA. To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Redick pointed out how after Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the talking points were focused on the Lakers and what the team needed to do to have a legitimate chance to win the series. He reminded people that Nuggets center and two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić had his third consecutive triple-double, posting an unparalleled statline of 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists.
“We don’t do a good job of selling what the NBA is, which is 30 teams, 450 players [and] multiple superstars,” Redick said. “The fact that people are now being like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize Nikola Jokić was good’…. Well, let’s put him on TV more!”
Stephen A. Smith told Redick that the NBA has not established its games akin to “events” as much as the National Football League. Smith expressed how he has seen pastors change the time of their Sunday sermons in order to ensure they were home to watch professional football games. While football is very much a team sport, Smith offered Redick his perspective that basketball is “built on superstars.”
“The NBA became what it is because it gravitated to individuality,” Smith said. “Even though the Boston Celtics were a great team and the Lakers ultimately were a great team, they sold Magic and Bird. Michael Jordan comes along – they sold Michael Jordan, and obviously, all the names that we don’t need to get into followed. They sold the individual.”
Smith addressed Redick and accentuated the incredible feats of Jokić, but part of what has made him one of sports media’s most prominent personalities is by having a shrewd perception of his audience. ESPN and other major sports networks are fully aware that Los Angeles supersedes Denver in terms of media consumers, and that the Lakers are recognized as an international brand.
“I’m not where I am today if it were not for the NBA,” Smith said. “Basketball has done wonders for my life, and I’m incredibly grateful and thankful, and the NBA will always be promoted on this show. Please understand in the same breath, we also have to pay attention to what the audience wants to hear too.”