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More Layoffs Announced at NBC Regional Sports Networks

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Two weeks ago, Variety reported NBCUniversal was bracing for layoffs and after the company’s digital department was hit Monday, more downsizing was announced for their TV brands Tuesday. Three of NBC regional sports networks were significantly affected, NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports Boston and NBC Sports Chicago. 

“Due to the ongoing economic challenges caused by the pandemic and with the need to better position NBCUniversal for the future, we have made a number of difficult decisions to achieve cost savings, including eliminating some roles across the portfolio,” a spokesperson for NBCUniversal said in a statement.

According to The Athletic, at least 17 employees have been let go from NBC Sports Bay Area. After nearly two decades with NBC, Kelli Johnson announced she was informed her contract would not be renewed by the company, but will, however, stay on through the baseball season to cover the Giants in this unique year. Johnson joined NBCSBA in 2014 after past tenures with NBC Sports networks in Houston and DC. 

Other NBCSBA employees impacted by the restructuring included senior director of communications Jay dela Cruz, who was laid off after a quarter century with the company. The Athletic also noted Brian Chen changed his Twitter bio to “free agent,” after working as NBCSBA’s creative and editorial manager. The RSN’s director of social engagement Dann Pedroza was let go after two and a half years with the network. 

According to Chad Finn of The Boston Globe, NBC Sports Boston was also hit hard by the round of layoffs, releasing nearly 20 employees this week. The Globe reported the following on-air personalities have been let go from NBC Sports Boston, anchor Gary Tanguay, Bruins reporter Joe Haggerty, host Danielle Trotta, Celtics reporters Abby Chin and A. Sherrod Blakely. NBC Sports Boston may keep some of their laid off employees for up to 60 days as they continue to cover the Celtics and Bruins throughout the playoffs.

NBC Sports Chicago was also impacted by the company’s downsizing efforts, which unfortunately ended the tenures of Laurence Holmes and Leila Rahimi with the network, along with multiple behind-the-scenes employees. Rahimi relocated to the Midwest to join NBC Sports Chicago in 2015, where she hosted White Sox pre and post, as well as Baseball Night in Chicago. Holmes was a part-time employee and hosted the Football Aftershow following Bears games. The popular Chicago sports personality can still be heard daily with his noon – 2pm radio show on The Score.

UPDATE: Crossing Broad reports that 17 employees were let go from NBC Sports Philadelphia. Among them were Phillies broadcaster Gregg Murphy, NBC Sports Philly Director of Communications Maureen Quilter, and former The 700 Level founder Enrico Campitelli. There were also multiple cuts on the digital side.

The site also reports that as a company, the NBC RSNs are moving away from sideline reporters. Sideline reporters will stay in place through the end of the NHL and NBA seasons. After that, some talent will be reassigned. Others will be released.

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Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX

“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”

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FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.

A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.

The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.

Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.

That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.

Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.

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FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”

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The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.

Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.

Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”

Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.

“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.

FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.

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NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC

“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”

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ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.

ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.

This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.

Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.

“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”

ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.

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