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ESPN Promises Kid Friendly Little League WS Coverage

“The idea is to edit out potentially embarrassing moments for the competitors.”

Jack Ferris

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This week, millions of eyes will watch a number of 12 year old baseball players descend on Williamsport in search of the 2019 Little League World Series title.  Unfortunately, for every triumphant walk off and dog pile at home plate, there’s a young athlete overcome with tears being consoled by a coach or teammates.

This year, ESPN is doing it’s best to preserve the dignity of the kids on the diamond.

Per a Front Office Sports article by Michael McCarthy, Little League and ESPN are putting together a home run derby Saturday for the first time ever.  Those watching at home, however, will get a tape delayed version Sunday.  The idea is to edit out potentially embarrassing moments for the competitors.

“It’s a big priority for us to make sure that these kids are portrayed in the best possible light whenever we put them on,” ESPN Senior Manager of MLB and Little League Rick Mace explained.

Of course, with 345 games across all seven divisions across ESPN’s many platforms over the next few weeks, tears are probably inevitable.

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 are announced, it is expected that the game will be the largest 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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Sports TV News

Mad Dog To Stephen A. Smith: ‘Can We Move On From This Stupid Book?’

“You’ve made a fortune. We get it! The book’s not bad! We can move on!”

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Stephen A. Smith is a busy man this week as he hits the interview circuit to promote his new memoir Straight Shooter. Some of those interview obligations have taken the First Take host away from the ESPN show that made him a star. His friend and part-time partner Chris “Mad Dog” Russo wants to make sure Smith has his priorities straight.

“Your meal ticket is here, in that chair,” he said on Wednesday’s edition of First Take. “Your meal ticket is not on these radio shows; not on these TV shows. How dare you miss openings of shows to do radio or TV interviews!”

The segment was clearly done tongue-in-cheek as both men smiled through the interaction, but Mad Dog let Smith have it. He said that he was already sick of the book.

“Enough already! You’ve made a fortune. We get it! The book’s not bad! We can move on! Can we move on from this stupid book? I’ve had enough of Straight Shooter!

Molly Qerim and Marcus Spears laughed as they looked on. Qerim even added that she hoped Dave Roberts, ESPN’s head of NBA and studio production, who oversees First Take, was watching.

After Mad Dog’s rant was over, Smith had a chance to fire back. He stayed calm and simply pointed out that while Russo may be sick of the promotional tour for the book, he is feeding the beast.

“Where am I appearing on today? You said you’re tired of the book, but you’re talking to me at 4 o’clock.”

Smith and Russo will likely continue the theatrical tete-a-tete on Wednesday afternoon on SiriusXM channel 84.

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Sports TV News

Bomani Jones: Marcus Spears Doesn’t Treat Broadcasting Like It’s Easy

“I appreciate when athletes get into our space and show the same respect for this craft that you show for your own.”

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There are plenty of former athletes on the payroll of sports networks all over the world. On his podcast on Wednesday, Bomani Jones noted that not all of them treat their transition into broadcasting like it requires work. He told Marcus Spears that he can tell the former Dallas Cowboy does.

“This job is not easy. I think a lot of people think they can just float in here and get it, and it was very clear early that no, you were not that,” Jones said on Wednesday’s episode of The Right Time.

Jones would know how difficult it can be to cut through in the media business. He is currently producing three episodes of his ESPN podcast each week while also preparing for the second season of his HBO show Game Theory to debut on Sunday night. This year, he also added regular appearances on CNN This Morning to his workload.

He attributes some of Marcus Spears’ appeal to the fact that Spears is from Louisiana, growing up in Baton Rouge. Bomani Jones noted that the culture of that state plays very well on television.

“Oh, you’re so familiar, and I mean that in the best way possible.”

ESPN keeps Spears busy. On television, he is a regular on both Get Up and NFL Live. He also makes appearances on First Take when called upon, as well as hosting a podcast with Kendrick Perkins for the company.

Jones said that he knows none of those opportunities came to Marcus Spears by accident. Spears first joined the company when the SEC Network launched and worked his way up over the years. Jones notes that requires a kind dedication that isn’t unfamiliar to Spears. 

“I appreciate when athletes get into our space and show the same respect for this craft that you show for your own.”

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