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ESPN Expands Mack Brown’s Role

Jason Barrett

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Set to begin his second season in the television game Mack Brown already appears to be in the fast lane.

This year, he’ll add booth analyzing Friday night college football around the country for ESPN to studio analyzing Saturday afternoons in Bristol for ABC.

At 64, maybe he’s secretly auditioning to play an avuncular role in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Sequel.

Opening week appears a slam-dunk for Brown, whom you may remember as the coach at the University of Texas where he was afforded the luxury of private jet and charter travel.

After working Baylor at SMU this Friday, he’ll be on a commercial jet headed out of Dallas-Fort Worth at 6:30 a.m. for a 3½-hour flight to Hartford, Conn. Then comes a 40-minute drive to ESPN headquarters, a quick shower, a trip to wardrobe, makeup and voila, Brown will be making studio magic with John Saunders and Mark May by early afternoon.

It may get a little more complicated the next week when Brown is down to work Utah State-Utah, catch a midnight redeye from Salt Lake City to Hartford and hopefully be at ESPN by 1 p.m.

“I hope,” Brown said via telephone the other day with the optimism of a man accustomed to private travel, “the planes are on time.”

Things get a little more complicated when ESPN adds 11 a.m. kickoffs to its Saturday schedule of games on ABC. Take the Texas-Oklahoma game on Oct. 10, which is likely to fill the time slot. Brown and his play-by-play partner, Dave Flemming, are down to work the North Carolina State-Virginia Tech game the night before. Maybe Brown can make it from Blacksburg to Hartford in plenty of time for the Texas-OU studio duty. Maybe ESPN will change its mind and allow Brown a Friday night off.

When the schedule hits full stride, ABC will offer games at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Brown along with studio mates John Saunders and Mark May will be on call all day for halftime and post-game duty. ESPN is willing for Brown to miss some early games, but not Texas-OU.

Danny Kanell did similar Friday night/Saturday duty last season, Some weeks he skipped game duty. Others he was late to the studio.

Brown didn’t have to embrace his new schedule. But when ESPN offered, he didn’t hesitate.

“I can tell you that Mack is not concerned,” said Bill Graff, who oversees production for ESPN’s college studios. “He’s excited.”

Graff mentored Brown through what the ex-coach refers to as his “rookie season.”

They watched plenty of tape together every week to review Brown’s performance. Graff graded. Brown learned.

“By the third or fourth week we were fine tuning,” Graff said. “Mack got it.”

By season’s end, Graff suggested Brown try working a game. Brown was in the booth for University of Louisiana-Nevada Reno in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 20.

Brown’s work off-Broadway earned him a shot at higher profile games on Friday nights.

Brown said he has enjoyed the transition from the sideline in Austin to broadcasting.

“I spent 42 years in coaching, 30 as a head coach, and I still get to talk to coaches, watch video, prep for games,” Brown said.

But he misses the control he had. As coach, he dictated schedules, and had the luxury of others making his hotel reservations as well as travel plans. Then there was matter of police escorts to get him to games on time.

“Not being the boss is different,” Brown said. “Now someone tells me what to do and when to do it.”

Perhaps hardest of all was condensing his thoughts into 12 to 15-second sound bytes that television demands, he said.

“Instead of talking about two or three things I saw, I had to learn to talk about one thing,” Brown said. “All I’m trying to do in the studio and at games is to put some sense into football.”

To read the rest of this article visit the Dallas News where it was originally published

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Nick Kahn: Vince McMahon Played WWE Hiatus Smart

“Sometimes I think it’s just a three mile radius of LA thing. The ‘Hey, step down and you have to be punished for it’.”

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Nick Kahn is now the sole CEO of the WWE after Stephanie McMahon announced her exit from the company, which came in the wake of news that Vince McMahon would return to oversee the exploration of either a sale or merger. On the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Kahn said that even while McMahon was away from the company, he never considered himself the boss.

“My thought has always been there’s only one boss at WWE and it ain’t me,” he told Simmons. “Vince is the creator and founder of the company. He’s also the controlling shareholder, which as you know, that’s not a work term. That’s a legal term of art. So I think it was always my point of view or Stephanie’s point of view that at some point he would come back. I think the way that he played it was smart, Bill, in that he went away for five or six months — which the audience seems to like that — and then he came back and took control back of his company.”

Vince McMahon exited the WWE power structure five months ago amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and the revelation that he used company money to cover up those allegations.

When asked if he is worried that McMahon’s return could turn off business partners or fans, Kahn pointed out that so far, that hasn’t happened. He wonders if there is really a strong feeling amongst the public about McMahon being back involved with the company at all.

“Sometimes I think it’s just a three mile radius of LA thing. The ‘Hey, step down and you have to be punished for it’.”

Nick Kahn says he made it a point to visit Vince monthly during his hiatus. Those were not business visits. He said that he, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H had total control during that time.

Bill Simmons pressed Kahn, wondering if it bothered McMahon that wrestling fans seemed very happy with the WWE product without his involvement. Simmons reasoned that when anyone builds a creative product for as long as Vince McMahon built the WWE, there is a part of that person that wants to know the product cannot survive without him.

“To me, I never got a sense from him of any sort of bitterness or anything like that,” Kahn said. “He seemed, through the first month of his hiatus, thrilled.”

Since Vince McMahon’s return, Nick Kahn says he has not expressed any concerns about decisions made in his absence and he has largely still been hands off with the creative side of the business. His sole focus is finding the right business relationship to secure WWE’s future. He added that it is not a responsibility that McMahon is taking on alone.

“I’m involved in it. Triple H is involved in it. The board is obviously involved in it, Triple H being on the board, as I have the good fortune of being as well. We’ll see how it plays out. It should not be a lengthy process.”

Kahn did address two rumors floating around Vince McMahon’s return and the power structure of WWE. He said that any rumor that a deal had been done with Saudi Arabia to sell the company was “100 percent fake. 100 percent made up.”

Simmons also asked him about the relationship between Vince and his daughter Stephanie McMahon after she announced her resignation as co-CEO. Kahn said that both he and Stephanie always assumed it was likely Vince would return to lead the company. Anything beyond that, he isn’t interested in commenting on.

“It’s important to anyone listening to this, if you’re going to join a family business and you’re not part of the family, stay out of the family business part. That’s rule number one.”

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Stephen A. Smith Details How Kobe Bryant Handled Criticism

“Kobe was a savant. You did not know more basketball than Kobe Bryant.”

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We are approaching the three-year anniversary of the untimely and tragic death of former NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reminisced about the former Laker during an appearance on The Howard Stern Show Wednesday.

While promoting his book, Straight Shooter, Smith shined a light on his relationship with the five-time champion, saying he knew if he received a phone call from Bryant, the resulting conversation was likely to be contentious.

“Kobe scared the living shit out of me,” Smith said. “Kobe was a savant. You did not know more basketball than Kobe Bryant. So when Kobe called you — I can quote him for you right now. Voicemail: ‘You know who this is, motherf—er. Get your ass up, pick up the f—ing phone and call me back. That bullshit you just said. And don’t keep me waiting for so long, either. Your ass better not go on the air and say some more shit before you talk to me.’ That was Kobe. I would say something along the lines of ‘I don’t like the way he’s playing. It’s selfish basketball…I don’t like this decision.'”

Smith continued by commenting on Bryant rebutting that he would only play “selfish basketball” when the players around him weren’t playing up to their potential, before then saying Bryant was open to criticizing coaches if Smith was critical of the 18-time All-Star.

“‘He don’t know what the f— he’s doing, Steve. He don’t know what the f— he’s doing, so you don’t know what the f— you’re talking about, Stephen A. So you’re gonna bring up all that shit you’re talking about me, but you didn’t bring up that.'”

Smith then concluded by saying Bryant would tell him “I don’t know why I love your ass. I really, really, don’t. But I love you.”

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Sports TV News

Super Wild Card Weekend Ratings Down Slightly From Last Year

Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers over linear television and streaming platforms.

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Ratings for nearly every Super Wild Card game of the NFL Playoffs opening weekend have been released, and while the numbers are encouraging on a per-game basis, overall, they show a slight dip from last season.

ESPN was first to unveil their ratings, showing Monday’s contest between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — which aired on both ESPN and ABC — was watched by an average of 30.6 million viewers. That number is the largest NFL audience from the Disney-owned channels since Super Bowl XL in February of 2006. The 30.6 million viewers number is a 32% increase from last season’s game that saw the Los Angeles Rams beat the Arizona Cardinals.

“This exceptional number proves once again that live sports are unequaled in amassing large audiences,” said ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. “The success is also a clear reflection of how ESPN, working alongside the NFL and our colleagues at Disney, can help attract fans, build anticipation, and expand our reach. Even without a dramatic ending, it was an extraordinarily memorable evening.”

When final viewership totals were announced Wednesday evening, the company confirmed that the game was the most-watched NFL Playoff broadcast in the history of The Walt Disney Company’s ownership of ABC/ESPN, which began in 1996.

FOX Sports touted the highest viewership total of the weekend, with 33.2 million viewers watching the New York Giants defeat the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The broadcast peaked at over 40 million viewers in the final minutes of the game.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s San Francisco 49ers win over the Seattle Seahawks saw an average audience of 27.4 million.

An average of 28.6 million watched the Cincinnati Bengals thrilling triumph over the Baltimore Ravens on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. According to the network, the broadcast was the most-watched Sunday primetime program since Super Bowl LVI in February of 2022. Ratings for the Jaguars and Chargers broadcast on Saturday were not made available, but NBC Sports did claim that for the first time since 2021 both of its broadcasts eclipsed an average of 20 million viewers.

Finally, CBS Sports scored it’s most-watched Sunday AFC Wild Card game in nearly a decade as 30.8 million watched the Buffalo Bills defeat the Miami Dolphins. Similar to other broadcasts, the game peaked with nearly 40 million viewers. Coincidentally, the game was the most-streamed Wild Card game in the history of the network’s streaming platform, Paramount+.

Even with several networks experiencing noticeable highs, the numbers are a slight decrease from 2022. Last year, the six games averaged 30.5 million viewers on linear television and streaming platforms.

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