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ESPN Expands Digital Programming In 2020

“The 500 live original shows is an increase from 2019 where ESPN aired closer to 400 digital programs, and a large spike from 2018 when that number was around 200.”

Brandon Contes

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ESPN will continue to increase their digital programming during 2020. According to Digiday, The Worldwide Leader will air more than 500 live original shows across its own digital platforms along with YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook.

The 500 live original shows is an increase from 2019 where ESPN aired closer to 400 digital programs, and a large spike from 2018 when that number was around 200.

“These shows are different than the shows we do on TV,” ESPN SVP of digital and social media content Ryan Spoon told Digiday. “If you think about what we did leading into college football, the social shows are often very relaxed. I put [an all-] capital ‘fun’ in front of the tone we want to see. They’re about driving interest and enjoyment around it.”

The continued increase in digital programming comes after ESPN plucked Omar Raja away from Bleacher Report late in 2019. As a teenager, Raja launched House of Highlights, an NBA channel on Instagram which is a brand still owned by Bleacher Report. Raja was brought in by ESPN to help reach consumers looking for digital content rather than traditional TV. 

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here

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Penn National To Acquire Barstool Sports In Full

“Bloomberg reports that the two step process will be completed by February.”

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Penn National Gaming made its initial investment in Barstool Sports in 2020, paying $161.2 million for a 36% stake in the content factory. Just a few years later, the casino company will acquire the remaining shares.

The relationship with Barstool has had ups and downs for Penn National.

A Business Insider report dropped in December accusing Barstool founder Dave Portnoy of sexual misconduct with multiple women caused serious headaches for Penn National. Portnoy denied any wrongdoing, saying all of the incidents detailed in the piece were consensual. He has also filed a defamation suit against the publisher.

Jay Snowden, the company’s CEO, encouraged investors to be patient. That didn’t stop the reaction though. Penn National lost over $2.5 billion in value and drew the attention of regulatory boards in Nevada and Indiana.

Still, the relationship with Barstool is one the casino company wants to keep. The company has found value in using the brand’s name to attract a younger audience to its sportsbooks. The Barstool name has been used on other venues and products inside of Penn National’s casinos as well.

Barstool podcasts and videos give Penn National a valuable, proprietary means of advertising. Plus, the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl and the Barstool Classic in Philadelphia, put Penn National in the live sports business.

Penn National has an option to acquire the rest of Barstool for another $387 million. Bloomberg reports that the two step process will be completed by February.

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Dana White Calls ESPN Writer a “F—ing Scumbag”

“It wasn’t a serious interview,” White said. “It was a fun, f—ing edited piece…”

Jordan Bondurant

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Dana White
Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

UFC president Dana White did not hold back when talking about a recent piece by ESPN, which claimed in the story headline that White said fighters would not be getting pay raises.

White did an interview with GQ last week and answered a Twitter question about UFC fighter pay. He said fighters “get paid what they’re supposed to get paid. They eat what they kill. They get a percentage of the pay-per-view buys and money is spread out amongst all the fighters.”

White prefaced those words by saying boxing is not what it used to be on account of money and other issues. “It’s never gonna happen while I’m here,” he said, which was meant to be interpreted that he would never allow pay to force the UFC to become like boxing.

“Do you think I’m going to sit here and say, ‘Fighter pay will never go up while I’m here.’ That’s the dumbest f—ing thing I’ve ever heard,” White told Yahoo Sports. “And do you know how stupid you have to be to think that’s what I said in that interview when I was talking about boxing?”

White was fired up mainly because ESPN took words he said in what was supposed to be a fun and light interview with GQ and, in his opinion, changed the context to create a more salacious story.

“It wasn’t a serious interview,” White said. “It was a fun, f—ing edited piece, and ESPN, the leader in sports, is going to write a story on fighter pay based off that f—ing video? Give me a f—ing break.”

Marc Raimondi, who covers MMA for ESPN, wrote the article in question. White didn’t know that, but he made it clear he was pissed off about the piece.

“I didn’t see the story,” White said. “I don’t even know who wrote it, but you’re not a journalist. You’re a f—ing scumbag.”

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Tim Brando: Fox Has Been ‘So Good To Me’

“FOX actually asked me ‘Hey Tim, is there anybody you’d like to have with you’. I said yes, Spencer’s contract is up over at CBS and they went out and hired him.”

Ricky Keeler

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Legendary play-by-play broadcaster Tim Brando has had one of the rare distinctions of working at ESPN, CBS, and FOX. He also has had the chance to work with the same partner at two different networks, which is not something that is very common.

Brando was a guest on the Straight Fire with Jason McIntyre podcast on Wednesday. During the segment, Brando talked about how when Joel Klatt moved up to the lead broadcast booth on FOX’s college football coverage in 2015, the network asked Brando who he wanted with him in the booth. His answer was to go bring in someone else he was very familiar with at CBS before FOX hired him in 2014, Spencer Tillman.

“When Joel moved up to work with Gus, FOX actually asked me ‘Hey Tim, is there anybody you’d like to have with you’. I said yes, Spencer’s contract is up over at CBS and they went out and hired him.”

Brando worked with Tillman calling college football games on CBS and in studio shows as well. This year, the two of them will begin their 24th year working together in some capacity over the last 25 years, which is quite the accomplishment.

When FOX called Brando to join their team in 2014 after CBS let him go, he was excited for another opportunity and he saw the vision and the growing college football coverage that the network was planning.

“In so many ways, FOX has been so good for me. When I left CBS abruptly back in 2014, I think a lot of people including me thought Oh gosh, I think I’ve earned enough checkmarks that I should land with a good parachute at a good place.

“I was a free agent for about 8-9 months. When FOX called, I was so excited. Their portfolio was growing, but it wasn’t nearly what it is today. They were visionary. I think they were thinking we are going to grow our college football portfolio. We need more people. We need to add some greater depth. Maybe some people that have a little more understanding of the history of the game. It’s not always popular for a young television executive to hire a 58-year-old guy that has worked at 3 different networks, but FOX did and I really owe them a lot.”

Brando definitely brings that to any college football game that he calls and he will begin his 9th season at FOX this year in addition to the college basketball game he broadcasts as well. 

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