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FOX Using Thanksgiving NFL Game To Give MLS Ratings Boost

“The expected help the NFL can provide is coming at a good time for the MLS. The league has set TV rights discussions to the side until after the December 11th Cup Final.”

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FOX is giving Major League Soccer a big helping hand on Thanksgiving Day. The network will follow the noon kickoff between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions with an MLS Cup Playoff game.

Major League Soccer’s TV audience is still relatively small compared to the other major American sports leagues, but ratings were up for the league in 2021. Games saw a 3% growth in viewership on traditional television this season. As Sportico’s Anthony Crupi points out, that is especially remarkable when fewer Americans are watching live television and MLS’s fanbase skews younger, into a demo that is more likely to give up linear TV for digital options.

The expected help the NFL can provide is coming at a good time for the MLS. The league has set TV rights discussions to the side until after the December 11th Cup Final. Once that date arrives though, MLS owners will be looking to lock in the most lucrative rights deal the league has ever signed.

“We’ve had numerous and productive discussions about our unique set of rights, but right now we’re most focused on how to build momentum through the playoffs,” Seth Bacon, MLS senior VP of media, said.

While you can bet that there is interest from American soccer club owners in just how much the English Premier League gets in its current round of American TV rights negotiations, the reality is MLS TV rights likely won’t be close.

Thanksgiving football could be the kind of boost that raises some eyebrows amongst the network executives involved in the discussions. 27.1 million people watched the last time the Bears and Lions met on Thanksgiving Day. FOX will be promoting the MLS Cup Playoff contest during the game. If those ads convince just 2% of an audience that size to stick with the network instead of headed to ABC to watch the Cowboys and the Raiders, it will be a huge success and a number that is most certainly brought up during rights negotiations.

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Jim Nantz Believes Ryan Fitzpatrick Has Future In TV

“I’ve always said that is a guy that will be, if he wants to be, a great piece of television talent down the road.”

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Every network is usually out there looking to find the former athlete who can have success in a second career as a broadcaster or a TV analyst. For Jim Nantz, he believes there is one quarterback out there that, if he wants a job in the business, would be the perfect guy for it.

During an appearance on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Jimmy Trainathe name that Nantz mentioned was Ryan Fitzpatrick. He said his favorite thing about Super Wild Card Weekend was seeing Fitzpatrick with fans at the game for Buffalo’s playoff win over New England:

“My favorite thing I saw all weekend was Ryan Fitzpatrick,” Nantz told Traina. “What he did was one of the great validations for us fans that these guys actually care. We always want them to be one of us and we know they are getting paid a lot of money to play these games and play for our team, but do they really care? What does it mean to them?

“His [Fitzpatrick’s] journey has taken him to a lot of stops around the league. There he is, sub-zero wind chill factor, shirtless, man of the people, sitting in the stands cheering full-throated lustily for the Bills. That felt good. The fan side of me loved it. I just thought it said so much about him.”

While Nantz isn’t sure what Fitzpatrick has planned for his future after football, he thinks whatever the Harvard alum with the notable beard wants to do, it will be great.

“I don’t know what his second act is going to be, but I am going to predict it’s going to be huge,” Nantz said.

“There’s something about him. I’ve gotten to know him virtually every stop along the way in his NFL career and maybe he’s not even finished playing, but he wasn’t doing that to try to generate attention. He probably didn’t know the guy who shot that was going to post it. That’s Ryan Fitzpatrick. He has always had a way with a sense of humor and a way with phrasing things.”

One of the qualities that Nantz likes about Fitzpatrick is how real of a person he is and he would vouch for him if somebody asked:

“I’ve always said that is a guy that will be, if he wants to be, a great piece of television talent down the road,” said Nantz. “That’s there if he wants it. I would definitely make a run at him if somebody ever asked me. Maybe there’s something else he wants to do, but the thing is he is very real and that is a quality that’s worth a lot.” 

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Former Fox Sports Exec David Hill: ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ Is ‘Unlistenable’

“I think ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ is a disgrace. The broadcast feed is almost unlistenable.”

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ESPN Press Room

Former Fox Sports president David Hill is not a fan of ESPN’s current Monday Night Football broadcast crew, which he expressed bluntly in a conversation with the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand.

In the latest edition of his premium “Sports Clicker” newsletter (subscribe here), Marchand talked to the former Fox executive about his newest endeavor. Hill was contacted by Greg Norman about working on a new golf league. The challenge is to innovate the way golf is covered on television and attract an audience much younger than the average 65-year-old who watches the sport.

The only sport that isn’t struggling with how to present itself on TV and streaming these days is the NFL in Hill’s view. Having overseen Fox Sports when the network got into the NFL business, he has some clear thoughts on the current product. And he’s not a fan of what ESPN is doing with Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick on its showcase NFL broadcast.

“I think ESPN’s ‘Monday Night Football’ is a disgrace,” Hill told Marchand. “The broadcast feed is almost unlistenable. I think that’s why they decided to use the Mannings.”

Though he didn’t go into specifics, Hill is a fan of the “ManningCast.” It’s likely that he believes the alternate broadcast does a better job of attracting viewers more interested in video games and consuming their sports digitally.

Hill also praised CBS analyst Tony Romo, NBC broadcaster Cris Collinsworth, and Fox announcer Troy Aikman. His thoughts on Aikman probably shouldn’t be a surprise, though the Hall of Fame quarterback joined Fox Sports’ NFL coverage after Hill had moved on to an executive role for 21st Century Fox.

There’s no way of knowing if ESPN executives hold the same opinion toward the current Monday Night Football team. But that will surely be revealed by whether or not the network decides to bring the crew back for a third season.

Marchand reports that Griese’s contract is nearing its end, so a decision will obviously have to be made if the MNF trio is to return. So that could create an opening for Sean Payton, Pete Carroll, and Sean McVay, the three coaches reportedly attracting interest from TV networks.

ESPN previously talked to McVay about the MNF position in 2020. Of course, he has a chance to reach the pinnacle of the coaching profession if the Los Angeles Rams win the Super Bowl. But maybe he’d want to go out on a high note.

Curiously, Riddick has not interviewed for either the Bears, Giants, or Vikings general manager openings after talking to the Lions, Texans, and Jaguars last year. But if that changes and Riddick moves to a team’s front office, ESPN would have to replace two broadcasters in its three-man booth.

Maybe ESPN will consult Hill on its future direction for the MNF booth. OK, probably not. But Hill certainly appears willing to consult.

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Tony Stewart Joins Fox Sports Booth For Busch Clash, Daytona 500

“Tony brings Hall-of-Fame credentials and one of the most informative and entertaining voices in motor sports,”

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart will hop in the FOX Sports booth as a guest analyst next month for the Busch Light Clash and the season-opening Daytona 500 alongside Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer. 

“To call the very first Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum AND the Daytona 500 is an opportunity you don’t pass up,” Stewart said in a FOX Sports release. “The size and scope of both these races is massive, and it’s an honor to be a part of them with FOX. Anytime you get to talk racing with Clint and Mike, you’re going to have a good time.”

Stewart, the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, won three championships as a driver and last competed in the Cup Series in 2016. He also helped form the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) last summer, in which he ran all six races. 

Former NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon had been in the booth since 2016, but was named Vice Chairman of Hendrick Motorsports last summer. So Stewart will take his spot for the time being.

FOX has not yet announced a full-time replacement for Gordon. 

Stewart is not totally green to the booth as he and Bowyer did get some reps together last season when they joined Adam Alexander for the season-opening NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona.

“Tony brings Hall-of-Fame credentials and one of the most informative and entertaining voices in motor sports,” said Brad Zager, FOX Sports President of Production & Operations and Executive Producer.

“There is an obvious chemistry between Smoke and Clint, and there is no one better than Mike at bringing a broadcast all together.”

The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum will air Sunday, Feb. 6 at 6 p.m. ET on Fox. The 64th annual Daytona 500 is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 20 at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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