As the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2020 tennis season begins with the Australian Open, ESPN announced they’ve signed eight longtime analysts to new deals, also adding James Blake to their coverage.
Pam Shriver who joined the network in 1990, Patrick McEnroe (1995), Chris McKendry (1996), Joe Fernandez (2000), Brad Gilbert (2004), Darren Cahill (2007), John McEnroe (2009) and Chrissie Evert (2011), will all continue their tenures covering tennis for ESPN after signing new contracts.
In addition to their returning commentators, ESPN announced retired American tennis player James Blake will join the network for Wimbledon and the US Open later this year.
“ESPN is proud of the chemistry, experience and broad perspective, both generationally and historically, our roster represents, and we are thrilled the unmatched team will continue intact to provide the best in analysis, insights, opinions and storytelling,” said Jamie Reynolds, ESPN vice president, production. “When we add someone of the caliber of James Blake, a recognized voice in the sport, to the mix, we’ll be all the stronger, with his intelligence, close ties to the sport and fresh perspective. He will join us for Wimbledon and the US Open, reflecting the number of hours and volume of content ESPN commits to those events.”
Blake played tennis professionally from 1999-2013, ranking as high as No. 4 in the world, while winning 10 titles during his career. Since retiring, Blake founded the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Cancer Research Fund at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in memory of his father. Blake has also contributed to the Tennis Channel, NBC and CNN as an analyst for the sport.
Six weeks before his father died in 2004, Blake slipped on a clay tennis court and collided with the net post, fracturing his neck. Battling back from the injury, he returned to play nearly a decade professionally. Blake’s 2007 autobiography, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life, detailing his difficult comeback was a New York Times Best Seller.
Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here
Brandon Contes is a former reporter for BSM, now working for Awful Announcing. You can find him on Twitter @BrandonContes or reach him by email at Brandon.Contes@gmail.com.
Kay Adams: Pat McAfee Has Built ‘The Dream’
“it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”
Many in sports media have respect for former NFL punter Pat McAfee for what he has accomplished in his media endeavors, and you can add FanDuel TV host Kay Adams to that list.
“I’m just blown away by the success and by the leverage he has,” Adams said on the My Other Passion podcast. “It is uncanny, it is aspirational, and it is self-made, so it is a beautiful thing. I — of course — watch what he does. I don’t want to be just like him but I do think he is so disruptive.
“He has such a chip on his shoulder. It drives him but I almost wish I could see it relieved a little bit. He’s thriving, he’s happy, and I think the thing that sticks out to me about him is that he’s truly grateful. Truly is grateful for everything he has, his opportunities. He’s worked his ass off for it.”
Adams pointed to McAfee’s recent spat with the NFL over use of the league’s logos as an indicator of not only his success but his influence in the sports landscape.
“He is true to himself but he mostly leads with gratitude, which I think is the epitome of success. But he’s out there show you what can be done. He’s the first, but will he be the last to have that sort of platform? That sort of swing? What he does with the NFL the other week, I’m paying attention to that.
“Because I wanna see: is the NFL gonna bend the knee to Pat McAfee? Does the NFL care what he says? But it’s interesting because he’s built himself to such a place that he does not need anyone and that is the dream.”
The NFL did eventually “bend the knee” and reversed course on limiting McAfee’s use of league trademarks.
John Skipper: Bob Iger’s Return Won’t Effect ESPN
“If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”
There have been many questions about what Bob Iger’s return to Disney will mean for ESPN, but former ESPN President John Skipper believes it won’t change much.
Skipper pointed to Iger’s relationships with powerbrokers in the sports world as a positive, and also believes that the “streaming wars” will be won by those who hold the rights to live sports.
“As a moat, to get the pay-TV fees and to get people to pay more money to subscribe,” Skipper pointed to Sportico as the reason for ESPN to still have an agreement with the NBA for linear TV. He later added “If you’re going to win the streaming wars, you’re going to have to have sports.”
Skipper also said the network used to invest in constant studio programming but said that’s no longer a necessity.
“We did that type of programming because the economics were different at the time,” Skipper said.
Warner Bros. Discovery Sports President Departs
“His enthusiasm and light-hearted demeanor are among his most endearing qualities, and they will be missed.”
Lenny Daniels is leaving Warner Bros. Discovery after 27 years with the company.
Daniels is the President of the company’s sports division in the United States, overseeing the contracts and strategic vision for the organization.
In a memo sent to staff obtained by Sports Business Journal, CEO Luis Silberwasser said “While this change will take place right away, Lenny has agreed to work with me to ensure a smooth transition.” He also added “I have enjoyed working with Lenny during these past few months and I respect his decision. Lenny has never been one to place a spotlight on himself; he’s always been quick to shine it on those around him. His enthusiasm and light-hearted demeanor are among his most endearing qualities, and they will be missed.”
The departure by Daniels coincides with a round of layoffs by the company and also the beginning of long-term agreements with the NHL and MLB. The network is also about to embark on negotiations with the NBA for its next media rights deal, with Warner Bros. Discovery CEO and President David Zaslav recently saying “we don’t have to have the NBA“.