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Ken Burns Bringing Muhammad Ali Docuseries To PBS

The four-part series is releasing this fall.

Russ Heltman

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Muhammad Ali’s legendary life as a boxer and civil rights activist is getting the Ken Burns treatment this fall. Burns and PBS are teaming up for a four-part documentary focusing in on Ali’s life. Sarah Burns and David McMahon wrote and co-directed the documentary. It’s scheduled to air from Sept. 19 to 22.

“Muhammad Ali was the very best at what he did,” Ken Burns described in a statement. “He was arguably America’s greatest athlete, and his unflinching insistence that he is unabashedly himself at all times made him a beacon for generations of people around the world seeking to express their own humanity.”

The team is using footage from across Ali’s life to describe his rise as a boxer, his protest against the Vietnam War, and how he developed his Muslim faith. PBS isn’t just partnering with Burns on this project, The Undefeated has a hand in it as well. 

ESPN’s multimedia platform that covers the intersection of sports is hosting virtual conversations around the air dates discussing racial relations in sports. Celebrities and ESPN personalities are filling out the panels.

“Muhammad Ali remains one of the most iconic figures in American history,” vice president and editor-in-chief of The Undefeated Raina Kelley said. “He has been studied and modeled and quoted extensively, and his life’s story is central to understanding the modern Black athlete and this period of activism and social change that The Undefeated has been privileged to chronicle.”

Burns has used his visual magic to tell the story of another boxer. The filmmaker explored the first African American heavyweight champion’s life in Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. The film is part of the long relationship Burns has fostered with the network. They have produced 211 hours of programming together over 40 years.

“He [Ali] was a faithful Muslim, an unfaithful husband, a proud father and an adoring son,” The description on Burns’ website reads. “He was a fearsome warrior who vanquished nearly every opponent, but was finally brought down by his stubborn refusal to quit. After boxing, when Parkinson’s Syndrome had all but silenced him, he became an international hero, a saint, a symbol of freedom and courage. Today he is one of the most indelible and beloved men in history, and our four-part film, spanning over eight hours, will tell his story.”

Sports TV News

3.72 Million Tune In To See LeBron James Break Scoring Record

Jordan Bondurant

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Getty Images

Lakers star LeBron James surpassed the NBA’s all-time scoring record on Tuesday night, and TNT benefitted from the milestone ratings wise.

According to Sports Media Watch, Tuesday night’s game averaged 2.98 million viewers. That figure made it TNT’s biggest regular season audience in over two years.

The broadcast peaked at 3.72 million around 11:45 p.m. when James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the record.

Reporting also indicated that the game was the number one single-network program on TV in key demographics.

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Sports TV News

Disney Makes ESPN Independent Division In Corporate Restructuring

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN

Disney is in the process of reorganizing and restructuring the company, and details have emerged about the company’s plans for ESPN.

Deadline reported on Wednesday that ESPN will be one of three standalone segments comprising Disney. Entertainment and Parks, Experiences & Products are the other two segments.

The reorganization comes amid the exit of former CEO Bob Chapek and the re-entry of CEO Bob Iger. As one of Iger’s first moves back running Disney, he announced a restructuring of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution.

It was also reported that Jimmy Pitaro will continue as the president of ESPN.

In total, more than 7,000 jobs will be eliminated after the restructuring.

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Sports TV News

Roger Goodell: ‘Wouldn’t Surprise Me’ To See Thursday Night Football Move to Flex Scheduling

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon.”

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Thursday Night Football

In 2023, Monday Night Football will join Sunday Night Football in having the ability to flex NFL games into its window. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday Night Football could someday join that elite club.

During his “State of the League” speech Wednesday, Goodell said Thursday Night Football having the ability to flex matchups “wouldn’t at all surprise me”.

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon,” the NFL Commissioner said.

ESPN bargained for the ability to move higher profile games into Monday Night Football during its negotiations with the league for the next television contract that begins this upcoming season.

NBC has long held the ability to shift a select number of games from earlier windows into the Sunday Night Football primetime slot.

Amazon Prime Video just completed the first of an 11-year contract that sees the streaming platform spend nearly $1 billion per year on the Thursday Night Football package.

One of the largest storylines of Amazon’s debut season with the NFL was the near-constant ridicule from play-by-play announcer Al Michaels over the lackluster TNF schedule. Michaels made headlines over several weeks for his candor on the lack of interesting matchups, going as far as to joke that if the schedule didn’t improve he would retire.

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