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Colin Cowherd Likely to Leave Speak For Yourself

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As first reported by Michael McCarthy of the Sporting News, Colin Cowherd’s tenure on FS1’s “Speak For Yourself” could be coming to an end. The early evening program which includes Jason Whitlock, premiered in June 2016, and is reportedly being considered for expansion from one to two hours. With Colin having a full plate already with his daily TV/radio simulcast of “The Herd”, and regular involvement of “FOX NFL Kickoff,” an exit from the show might benefit all involved.

The 54-year old Cowherd signed a four year deal to leave ESPN and join FS1 in August 2015. Programming whiz Jamie Horowitz played a huge role in recruiting and convincing Cowherd to change networks, but Horowitz was let go in July 2017. With a little more than a year left on his original contract, might this be a way to ease Cowherd’s workload and keep one of the network’s most important stars happy and fresh? ESPN Radio Senior Vice President Traug Keller confirmed on the Barrett Sports Media Podcast that the door remains open for Cowherd to return to ESPN and FS1 can’t afford at this point to lose one of its most important assets.

If Cowherd does indeed exit Speak For Yourself later this year, the question for FS1 boss Charlie Dixon becomes whether to replace his spot or make Whitlock the star and add a supporting cast around him. FS1 does have access to a number of high profile personalities including Doug Gottlieb, Chris Broussard, Ray Lewis, Tony Gonzalez, Trent Dilfer, and Jason McIntyre, plus the company has shown it’s not afraid to open up their checkbook to lure quality talent from other places.

McCarthy points out in his piece that the show is likely to feature more news-making interviews with Whitlock in the future. Some of the largest attention to come FS1’s way has been due to interviews on its shows. Conversations which have stood out include Michael Vick talking to Whitlock about Colin Kaepernick needing to get a haircut if he’s allowed back in the NFL, and Terry Bradshaw stating that Mike Tomlin of the Steelers is not a great coach. LaVar Ball’s dust up with Cowherd and Kristine Leahy was another appearance that garnered mainstream media coverage.

While the situation with Cowherd remains in flux, there are other matters to solve too. One pressing issues is figuring out who to replace Leahy with on “The Herd”. Joy Taylor has been mentioned as a possible consideration, but her exit from “Undisputed” would need Skip Bayless’ blessing. If Skip gives the green light, Holly Sonders is seen as a possible replacement for Taylor alongside Bayless and Shannon Sharpe.

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Stephen A. Smith, Jay Williams Get Worked Up Arguing Over Kyrie Irving

Smith called Williams “an apologist” for defending Irving.

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Stephen A. Smith may be trying to turn himself down a bit since being hospitalized for COVID during the New Year’s holiday. But as pointed out by the New York Post‘s Ryan Glasspiegel, it sure didn’t look that way on Wednesday’s First Take while arguing about Kyrie Irving with guest co-host Jay Williams.

First Take viewers and sports media observers already know how Smith feels about Irving, who’s refused to take the COVID-19 vaccine and only played in four games for the Brooklyn Nets this season due to health and safety protocols throughout the league.

When Smith announced on-air in December that he tested positive for COVID and was experiencing symptoms, he ended the segment by criticizing the Nets for the “disgraceful move” of allowing Irving to rejoin the team despite only being able to play in road games. (He’s prohibited from playing in Brooklyn due to New York state vaccine mandates.)

On Wednesday, Smith repeated that assertion, adding that it would be bad for basketball if the Nets won the NBA championship with Irving only playing away from Brooklyn’s Barclay Center. And if it wasn’t certain how Smith feels, check out the look on his face at the 1:14 mark of the video below when Williams begins to defend the Nets.

With Kevin Durant out four to six weeks with a sprained knee, the Nets will likely slide down the Eastern Conference standings and possibly lose home-court advantage in the opening rounds of the NBA Playoffs. But with Irving allowed to play on the road, Williams argued that the Nets might enjoy an advantage in opposing arenas. Smith, to put it mildly, disagreed.

“Kyrie Irving being available for just road games and him playing for the Brooklyn Nets under those conditions,” said Smith, “you’re all in or you’re all out, I believe that if the Brooklyn Nets win the championship, it would be bad for basketball.”

Williams, who removed his jacket as he got more worked up, said Smith is attacking Irving’s character and created a narrative against the guard, who has every right not to take the vaccine if he so chooses.

The two probably could’ve gone on longer, but moderator Molly Qerim closed the segment because Williams had a radio appearance scheduled. Williams then amusingly accused Smith of planning a debate that he knew would be cut off. Smith responded by calling Williams “an apologist” for Irving.

This got heated! And they’ll shout it out over this topic again with fewer than 40 games remaining in the Nets’ season.

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Ron Franklin, Longtime ESPN Broadcaster, Passes Away at 79

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Ron Franklin was a prominent voice for a generation of fans growing up watching college football and basketball on ESPN. The veteran broadcaster passed away on Tuesday at the age of 79.

The sad news was first revealed by Mike Barnes, communication consultant and former sports director at Austin’s KVUE.

Franklin is best known for his work with ESPN, where he called games and anchored studio shows from 1987 to 2011. In addition to college football and basketball, he also called tennis, college baseball, and Olympic sports during his tenure at the network.

Before joining ESPN, Franklin was a sports director for news stations in New Mexico, Tulsa, and Houston in the 1960s and 1970s. From 1971 to 1982, he was the play-by-play broadcaster for the Houston Oilers. Franklin then moved on to call University of Texas football and men’s basketball from 1983 to 1988.

Fran Fraschilla, Franklin’s longtime broadcast partner on college basketball, shared the news on Twitter upon learning of it.

Unfortunately, Franklin didn’t avoid controversy during his time at ESPN. In 2005, he was reprimanded by producers after a condescending remark to sideline reporter Holly Rowe in which he called her “sweetheart.” Five years later, he called reporter Jeannine Edwards “sweet baby” during a production meeting. When she objected, Franklin followed up with a profane insult.

Franklin was pulled from the radio broadcast of the Fiesta Bowl after the incident and fired by ESPN soon thereafter a colleague reported him to management. He sued the network for wrongful termination, a case that was eventually settled out of court.

Plenty of other colleagues, friends, and fan expressed their condolences for Franklin on social media after hearing of his passing, including Dick Vitale and former NFL coach Wade Phillips.

“He’s going to be missed. I just think of all the great times we had working together,” former broadcast partner Mike Gottfried told AL.com. “I just knew the guy came prepared, he worked hard, he studied and his voice was so dominant, and so good that everybody knew he was. He loved the game, he loved the coaches, he loved the players.”

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Sinclair’s Estimated Streaming Service Fee Much More Expensive Than Competitors

The estimated fee of $20.25 would be a good deal more than other direct-to-consumer services such as the Disney bundle, priced at $13.99.

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Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group recently gained streaming rights for live NHL and NBA games. The company is working hard to become the premier direct-to-consumer service in sports. However, as Sportico’s Anthony Crupi reports, that will likely come at a premium price for consumers.

Outlined in Sinclair’s 8-K quarterly report filed to the SEC, all scenarios point to a monthly subscription fee of around $20.25. But will that be the most profitable scenario in which Diamond Sports achieves 975,000 subscribers for $237 million worth of revenue? Or will it result in the lesser scenario of 309,000 subscribers, predicting $75 million in revenue?

The rates are based on Diamond’s ability to stream NHL and NBA games in its affiliated franchises’ local markets. The fees are expected to increase as Diamond renews its legacy distribution deals with its member MLB teams. The Bally Sports nets have distribution deals in place with 14 MLB clubs, but only the Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, and Milwaukee Brewers have signed off on a streaming agreement.

In 2021, Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley in 2021 took issue with refuted reports of the company seeking a $23 monthly fee for consumers. Yet he also provided no details on what price the company had in mind.

The estimated fee of $20.25 would be a good deal more than other direct-to-consumer services such as the Disney bundle, which includes ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu, priced at $13.99.

Sinclair still has a few loose ends to tie up. Its recent $600 million financing deal and associated NBA renewal will be vital for the DTC launch. Last spring, the company’s broadcast division renewed its carriage agreement with Charter. But Sinclair’s standalone RSN deal with providers is scheduled to finish before March 31.

Charter’s Spectrum is the nation’s second-largest cable-TV provider. At the end of 2021’s third quarter, the company serviced 15.3 million residential video subscribers. Renewing the RSN contract is currently being negotiated, but agreeing to such deals is touchier now than ever.

The Diamond RSNs have been non-existent for 8.42 million DISH Network subscribers, even before Sinclair acquired the 21 former Fox Sports channels for $9.6 billion in August 2019.

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