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10 Most Powerful In Sports Media

Jason Barrett



Sports drives the best arguments. Not just the usual ones ­(Who is No. 1 in college hoops? Is Serena the best women’s tennis player ever?), but the real drama that unfolds outside the locker room: Did the NFL go easy on Ray Rice in his domestic abuse case? What is the state of race in America? And while there are lots of voices — the sports networks have wall-to-wall programming, and every major market has 24/7 talk radio — only a handful really lead the conversation. Looking at ratings, social media footprint, influence and the quality of commentary, THR paused the shouting long enough to pick the most powerful sports pundits right now. The unranked list reflects the power of ESPN and ascendance of women, the rise of digital and the pivotal nature of social and cultural issues in sports.


Thanks to this odd couple, Inside the NBA is one of the highest-rated shows on cable. Not surprisingly, Turner just signed the pair (and co-host Shaquille O’Neal) to five-year extensions. Barkley, 52, and Smith, 50, have been friends since their NBA days, but they rarely agree, leading to such moments as when Barkley kissed a donkey’s rear after losing a bet about Yao Ming’s scoring. But sometimes the banter turns serious, as it did when Smith objected to Barkley calling protesters in Ferguson, Mo., “looters” and “scumbags,” which led to a powerful on-air conversation about race in America.

Power stat Inside the NBA‘s 2015 conference finals postgame show averaged 3.2 million viewers.


Hosting the afternoon show SportsNation, Beadle effortlessly goes from commenting on Kim Kardashian‘s booty (“Are we done talking about giant, greasy poo-makers yet?”) to who’s going to win the Super Bowl. But this year, Beadle, who returned to ESPN in 2014, solidified her place as one of the most powerful female voices in sports. She hammered Florida State for its easy treatment of Jameis Winston(accused of sexual battery), colleague Stephen A. Smith for his suggestion that women bring violence on themselves and Floyd Mayweather Jr. for banning her from the Manny Pacquiao fight after she talked about his record of domestic abuse. Beadle, 39, says the biggest personal surprise was that “I had a voice. I think I’m just a girl who hosts a funny, goofy sports show.”

Power stat Those 1.1 million Twitter followers.


The Duke grad, 52, who played on Mike Krzyzewski‘s first Final Four team 30 years ago (and still calls him “Coach”), long has been popular for his ability to make the complexities of college hoops understandable to casual fans, elegantly diagramming plays onscreen. As ESPN’s lead college basketball analyst, he hosts the network’s NCAA Tournament studio show and does NBA Draft commentary. Since 2013, Bilashas become a prominent champion of change in college athletics, arguing on every available platform that student athletes should be paid. Says Krzyzewski about his former player, “He can go in-depth, and he’s not afraid to tackle any issue.”

Power stat What’s taking on the NCAA worth? In social media currency, a doubling of Twitter followers to nearly 1 million.


The dean of pundits, Costas, 63, has covered every major sport, hosted a late-night talk show, daytime radio show, called games on MLB Network, contributed to NBC’sRock Center (where his Jerry Sandusky interview made national headlines) and anchored 10 Olympics (2012’s London Games drew a record 219 million viewers). Don’t look for him on Twitter (Costas refuses to use social media because “it is just vitriol and ignorance”), but his role as NBC’s go-to sports guy for Today and Nightly News means that when he does speak (like criticizing the NFL for its handling of Deflategate or calling ESPN exploitative for giving Caitlyn Jenner an ESPY), his comments reverberate like those of few others.

Power stat The 2016 Rio Olympics will be the 11th games he has hosted, one short of the record held by the legendary Jim McKay.


Cowherd, 53, has charmed fans with his smarts and impatience for sports figures who cough up platitudes, but his ugly July 23 comments implying that Dominicans are intellectually inferior earned him an early release from ESPN, where he had been since 2003 and most recently hosted a midday radio show. In truth, ESPN did not have much to lose by jettisoning Cowherd, who already had told the network he was leaving. Despite an aggressive offer to keep him at the cable sports leader, Cowherd will defect to Fox Sports, where he’s expected to host a daily show on Fox Sports 1. His radio show will move from ESPN Radio to Premiere, and it will be simulcast on FS1.

Power stat His radio show averaged more than 2.5 million listeners, a big number for a non-drive-time slot.


Nichols’ 2013 move from ESPN to CNN, where she now is the network’s sole sports host, arguably has amplified her influence. Celebrated for asking tough questions, she has won respect (and legions of fans on Twitter) for grilling Roger Goodell on multiple occasions over conflict-of-interest issues. Nichols, 41, the daughter-in-law of the late Mike Nichols and Diane Sawyer, has used her new soapbox to challenge Floyd Mayweather Jr. about his history of domestic abuse as well as NBA commissioner Adam Silver about former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling. On the aspirational front, she also has spoken out to draw attention to the San Antonio Spurs making Becky Harmon the league’s first full-time female assistant coach. Last year, Sports Illustrated called Nichols “the most impactful and prominent female sports journalist.”

Power stat 739,000 Twitter followers and counting.

JIM ROME, CBS Sports Radio

Rome has managed to make his high-octane CBS show, which airs live for three hours on 224 stations nationwide, the rare national program that feels local. His mantra is “have a take and don’t suck,” and he’s merciless to weak callers, but fans (“clones” in Rome-speak) love him anyway, especially when he turns his acerbic wit to deflating big sports egos — NFL quarterback Jim Everett famously threw a table at Rome after repeatedly being called “Chris” (as in Chris Evert), and former NBA commissioner David Stern got so frustrated at Rome’s grilling about whether the draft was fixed that he snapped, “Do you still beat your wife?” (Rome never has been accused of domestic abuse.) The show draws millions of listeners, and the 50-year-old host has more than 1.38 million Twitter followers. As part of the deal he signed with CBS when he jumped to the network from ESPN in 2012, Rome, who has a thriving side career as a horse breeder, also hosts a monthly show on Showtime.

Power stat His radio show draws 3.3 million viewers a week.


With Simmons, HBO, which signed the 45-year-old host to a new contract July 22 after ESPN dropped him 11 weeks earlier, is betting it gets a one-man sports division. Since he made the jump from being a local Boston blogger to an ESPN columnist in 2001, few have had as much influence in as many different areas as Simmons — whether its via Twitter (he has 4.43 million followers), podcast (32 million downloads for The BS Report), in his role as 30 for 30 executive producer (the sports documentary series has won an Emmy and a Peabody) and Grantland creator, or even his deep-dive history tome, The Book of Basketball. Still, it’s his blistering attacks on Roger Goodell for his handling of everything from the Ray Rice case to the Tom Brady suspension that show the strength of Simmons’ voice and the breadth of his influence.

Power stat Simmons’ The Book of Basketball debuted at No. 1 atop The New York Times best-seller list and sold more than 200,000 copies in its first three months.


Smith, 47, relishes his role as sports talk’s reigning provocateur — whether it’s onESPN2’s First Take (where highlights of his debates with Skip Bayless always end up on YouTube), his SiriusXM radio show or Twitter, where he has 2.4 million followers. He pushes the envelope, defending Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban after he said he would cross the street if he saw a black kid in a hoodie and criticizing Tom Brady for skipping the White House ceremony in April honoring the New England Patriots for their Super Bowl victory to celebrate his parents’ anniversary. Said Smith to The New York Times, “I have opinions that are based on the facts that are presented to me. I don’t apologize. I stand by it. If I’m hated, so what? If I’m loved, so what?”

Power stat First Take is ESPN2’s most watched studio show.

MICHAEL WILBON and TONY KORNHEISER, ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption

“I know we play people on television, but we’re still just sportswriters,” says Wilbon of himself and his friend of 35 years (and longtime colleague at the Washington Post), who together co-host Pardon the Interruption, among the most influential 30 minutes on sports television. In its 14th year, the show’s rundown of the day’s most important stories (displayed in a right-hand scroll) sets the agenda as the lead-in to ESPN’s flagship 6 p.m. SportsCenter, capable of debating the frivolous (Was a tweet from Mark Cuban about makeup sex TMI?) as well as the serious (Gary Player‘s call for more black champions in golf). The program often is light and combative, but it hosts sophisticated conversations about topics like violence in sports (“We grew up in a world where we weren’t partners with the leagues,” says Wilbon) and race (“It helps that one of us is white and the other is black,” jokes Kornheiser). Few A-list guests turn down an opportunity to do “Five Good Minutes,” a midshow interview, despite being bashed by Wilbon and Kornheiser. Each retains a powerful individual brand: Wilbon, 56, as co-host of ABC/ESPN’s NBA halftime show and on social media (1.81 million Twitter followers), and Kornheiser, 67, via a radio show on ESPN’s D.C. station (and popular podcast) that is known for its smart conversation — he favors such sportswriters as Bob Ryan,Sally Jenkins and Richard Justice over athletes (“I hate people who are prone to cliches”) — and passionate fans.

Credit to the Hollywood Reporter which originally published this article

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Sports TV News

College GameDay Plans for Saturday’s Show Live at Clemson Despite Hurricane Ian Threat

“Regarding the weather this week, we will be actively monitoring the storm but are planning for a normal GameDay experience,” ESPN spokesperson Julie McKay told The State.

Jordan Bondurant



Hurricane Ian

In an otherwise seemingly quiet 2022 hurricane season, the Atlantic coast is now hunkering down in anticipation of the arrival of the first major storm. But despite the outlook, ESPN is moving forward with plans as of now to broadcast College GameDay live from Clemson University this weekend.

Hurricane Ian is forecasted to be somewhere between a Category 3 and Category 4 storm when it makes landfall along the Gulf coast of Florida this week, and the storm’s path as of Monday has it tracking up the Atlantic coast moving into the weekend.

Of course that could all change, as hurricanes are a bit unpredictable sometimes. But according to the Charlotte Observer, ESPN is planning for a normal broadcast of GameDay at Clemson on Saturday morning.

“Regarding the weather this week, we will be actively monitoring the storm but are planning for a normal GameDay experience,” ESPN spokesperson Julie McKay told The State. “Public safety is always our primary concern so if anything changes, we will be prepared to adjust accordingly.”

The university is also monitoring the storm’s path, as the Tigers ACC showdown with 10th-ranked N.C. State could be impacted. The game is not scheduled to kick off until 7:30 p.m. Saturday, so it all just depends on what the forecasted impact from the remnants of Ian looks like.

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Sports TV News

Kevin Harlan Said He Got to call Bills-Dolphins Game Sunday “By Luck”

“I don’t know anyone could have forecast that it would be this kind of setup. It was determined before the season even began. We kind of got lucky, and that’s basically it.”

Jordan Bondurant




Sunday’s thrilling Miami Dolphins victory over the Buffalo Bills turned out to be one of the top games of Week 3 of the NFL season. Buffalo running out of time at the end of their 21-19 loss infuriated offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey so much that he essentially trashed everything in front of him in the booth. The moment was captured by CBS cameras and became a viral moment on social media.

For play-by-play man Kevin Harlan, getting the chance to call the game for CBS was predetermined by the network brass before the season even started.

“It’s just by luck and just by the draw that we got this game,” Harlan told Richard Deitsch of The Athletic. “I don’t know anyone could have forecast that it would be this kind of setup. It was determined before the season even began. We kind of got lucky, and that’s basically it.”

Harlan noted that the broadcast crew assignments are put together for the first three weeks of the season. From there it becomes a week-to-week sort of thing. But network executives do put a lot of thought into who goes where.

“I think people think that we are throwing darts up at a board and putting broadcast teams wherever, but there’s a lot that goes into it,” Harlan said. “(CBS Sports executives) have multi-person meetings where they’re looking at (coverage) maps, trying to figure out where our games will go and what teams will draw the best audience. Clearly, when you have (Jim) Nantz and (Tony) Romo as our signature team, they want to put them with the best teams, as they should. The rest of the crews all kind of fall in line after that.”

Kevin added that while Nantz and Romo could’ve easily been in Miami instead of Indianapolis like they were, they’re glad they stuck to the plan. Still, while an early season battle between two 2-0 teams on paper seemed amazing, that didn’t change Harlan’s mindset and prep work.

“CBS decided not to make a change. We’re thankful for that,” he said. But (he, broadcast partner Trent Green and sideline reporter Melanie Collins) would approach this game if was 0-2 versus 0-2 the same exact way.”

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Sports TV News

NFL Sunday Ticket Crowded With More Issues in Week 3

A quick survey of the official DirecTV twitter account on Monday shows dozens of replies to customers complaining that the service did not work for them.





The NFL Sunday Ticket issues that appeared in the first two weeks of the NFL season continued to show themselves in Week 3.

In the first two weeks of the season, DirecTV was lambasted online for not being able to provide customers access to the entire NFL slate as the service promises. On Sunday, it was much of the same. A quick survey of the official DirecTV twitter account on Monday shows dozens of replies to customers complaining that the service did not work for them.

DirecTV has one more year of the service’s distribution rights before it will move on to another company. The new company that will host the NFL Sunday Ticket feature has not been announced.

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