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How Will Production Layoffs Effect ESPN’s On Air Talent?

“Deitsch says he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they are worried the days of ESPN hiring opinionists are mostly over. Miller isn’t buying it.”

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There aren’t a whole lot of people outside of the Walt Disney Company that know as much about ESPN as James Andrew Miller does. He is the author of Those Guys Have All the Fun, the book that documents the history of the network. On Monday, he was featured in Richard Deitch’s column for The Athletic talking about the recent layoffs at ESPN.

The duo discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it brought to broadcasting as the ultimate motivation for so many layoffs in Bristol behind the scenes. About midway through the conversation, Deitsch posed an interesting question: how will the layoffs of so many behind the scenes manifest itself with the on air staff?

Miller said he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they see the writing on the wall and their messages to agents are clear. Forget the raise, give me a longer deal.

“Apart from the Stephen A. (Smith) and probably less than two dozen individuals at ESPN who really have bargaining power and were able to extract significant increases during times like these, it’s not a great time,” he told Deitsch. “(Former CAA Sports head) Nick Khan picked a great era when (former ESPN president) John Skipper decided to be the George Steinbrenner for on-air personnel. There were big contracts and long contracts — and the economics of the time and the threat by FS1 justified it. But now that’s all gone.”

Deitsch says he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they are worried the days of ESPN hiring opinionists are mostly over. Miller isn’t buying it. In fact, he believes the opposite may be true.

“I think sports talk is going to maybe have a whole new renaissance because at the end of the day it’s far less expensive,” he said. “How many sports is ESPN or other competitors really going to be able to afford now, or spend the money on in the future? If you decide that you’re not going to bid on X Sport, you’re still going to have to program that time on your network. So I think that you’re going to start to look at programming and content that is cheaper to produce.”

If that is indeed the case, it obviously would be good news for many in the industry. Miller’s thinking isn’t hard to understand. Yes, the broadcast business has changed because of networks being willing to use tools like Zoom. That means there are fewer production jobs, but he uses other television shows to prove that no one is seeing hosts go away.

“Look, one of the things that started to happen when the pandemic became part of the fabric of our lives is all of a sudden you started to see Jimmy Fallon was in his basement. There was Savannah Guthrie in her home upstairs. This is happening all across all different networks. There was a bunch of us who said this could be the toothpaste out of the tube.”

Sports TV News

The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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Sports TV News

F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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