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ESPN Pulls The Plug on Grantland

Jason Barrett

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The network said the site was “suspended” effective immediately, and a senior ESPN source confirmed that there are no plans to bring it back.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise,” ESPN said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The surprising announcement came five months after ESPN split up with Grantland’s founding editor Bill Simmons. There has been an exodus of talent from the site since then.

About 40 writers, producers and editors will be affected by the decision. Writers who have contracts will be honored. Some will continue to write for ESPN’s website and produce videos for the ESPN Films unit.

But an unknown number of others will be leaving. Some of the site’s most distinctive work, like its television show recaps and features about movies, will be going away.

“We’re getting out of the pop culture business,” the senior ESPN source said.

ESPN executives are meeting with the affected staffers on Friday afternoon. Michael Baumann, a freelancer, complained that he found out about the closure through Twitter, not from the company directly.

There was such an outpouring of affection for the site that “Grantland” was a top trending topic on Twitter within half an hour of the announcement.

“I loved Grantland more than I’ve ever loved anything on the Internet,” wrote alum Kevin Lincoln, now an editor for New York magazine.

ESPN’s statement praised Grantland for having “quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun” and singled out Simmons for being “an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent.”

Simmons’ replacement, Chris Connelly, will “return to his prior role” at “SportsCenter” and the newsmagazine “E:60,” the statement said.

An ESPN spokeswoman said the company remains “totally committed” to two of its other digital offshoots, FiveThirtyEight and The Undefeated. Those two were modeled after Grantland.

Half an hour after the announcement, Simmons tweeted his reaction to the news: “Watching good/kind/talented people get treated so callously = simply appalling.”

In retrospect, the shuttering of Grantland may have started many months ago. Simmons’ divorce with ESPN came after he frequently clashed with the channel’s higher-ups.

He was hit with a well-publicized suspension last year after he practically dared his bosses to discipline him for his public criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In May, Simmons found out via a story in The New York Times that his contract was not being renewed. Since then, he has continued to criticize ESPN in public appearances and on his podcast. He recently commented that the network “is in the bag for the NFL.”

In the first half of 2016 Simmons will start hosting a weekly series for HBO.

Credit to CNN who originally published this article

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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Sports TV News

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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Sports TV News

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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