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ESPN E60 Special, ‘Whitney’s Anthem,’ Remembers Iconic Super Bowl National Anthem

Houston’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” took place shortly after the United States launched Operation Desert Storm.

Jordan Bondurant

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It’s hard to believe, but singer Whitney Houston passed away a decade ago. And as the Super Bowl approaches at the end of the week, Houston’s performance of the National Anthem at Super Bowl XXV (finishing the 1990 NFL season) is regarded as one of the most iconic ever.

On Feb. 11, the 10-year anniversary of Houston’s death, ESPN plans to revisit the performance with a special E60 titled Whitney’s Anthem and take a deeper look at why that moment is still so iconic to this day.

ESPN released a trailer for the special on Monday:

Houston’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” took place shortly after the United States launched Operation Desert Storm and much like George W. Bush’s first pitch at Yankee Stadium in 2001 at the World Series, the Grammy winner captivated a nation and united a hurting and divided nation for a brief moment before the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants kicked off.

Those close to the singer, as well as those involved with the game or played in the game, and additional voices such as the NFL executive who nearly rejected Houston’s version of the National Anthem, will be featured in the 30-minute special. Among those interviewed include Al Michaels, Chris Berman, Bruce Smith, Jim Kelly, Ottis Anderson, Carl Banks, and Chris Connelly.

Hosted by Jeremy Schapp, the show is being produced by Russell Dinallo and Simon Baumgart. The E60 special will be accompanied by content across ESPN programming. Schapp will appear on the ESPN Daily podcast on Feb. 11, while ESPN.com will run a written piece on the episode. Outside the Lines and SportsCenter will also air clips from the show.

You can catch Whitney’s Anthem on Friday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. on ESPN and watch via streaming on ESPN+ and the ESPN app. The special will also air multiple times across ESPN networks.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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