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John Tortorella Joins ESPN’s NHL Coverage

The former-Columbus Blue Jackets head coach was an analyst for TSN in 2008.

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

“Torts” is on his way back to the analyst desk.

Longtime NHL head coach John Tortorella is trading his whistle for a microphone. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that ESPN has hired Tortorella as part of their new and improved NHL coverage team.

Tortorella was most recently the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, leading them to their first-ever playoff series victory over the Lightning in 2019. The 63-year-old parted ways with Columbus this past May after the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Tortorella has also coached the Canucks, Rangers, and Lightning, leading the bolts to their first Stanley Cup title in 2004. In 22 seasons of head coaching experience, Tortorella holds a 673-541-37-132 record. His 673 regular-season wins are tied for 12th in NHL history.

The fiery coach is well-known for his antics with reporters. He regularly complained about the media and held combative exchanges at press conferences. Now, he’s on the other side of the coin for the first time since 2008-09 when he was a hockey analyst for TSN.

ESPN surely hopes a dash of that bravado makes its way to the studio desk when they take on a large role in NHL coverage for the first time since they held the TV rights from 1992-2004.

Tortorella joins a growing list of hockey talent added by ESPN, featuring a mix of Americans and Canadians. Chris Chelios, Rick DiPietro, Ryan Callahan, Brian Boucher, Hilary Knight, and A.J. Mleczko, among others, make up the American contingent. While, the Canadian side includes Mark Messier, Ray Ferraro, Kevin Weekes, and Cassie Campbell-Pascall.

ESPN’s NHL coverage begins in full this fall as they dive headfirst into puck action. The NHL is broadcasting 25 national, exclusive regular season games per season on ABC or ESPN, along with 75 ESPN-produced national regular-season games streamed on ESPN+ and Hulu.

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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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