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Chris Russo On Debating Stephen A. Smith Weekly: ‘I’ll See If I Can Hang In With Him’

“It’s Stephen’s show and he invited me on. I may not come out guns a-blazin’ right away, I have to get my feet wet, but I will get into it as I go along.”

Ricky Keeler

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Chris Russo First Take

Starting Wednesday, Feb. 16, there should be plenty of eventful debates on First Take when Chris “Mad Dog” Russo joins Stephen A. Smith during the show each Wednesday.

On Friday’s edition of The Michael Kay Show, Russo joined Kay, Don LaGreca, and Peter Rosenberg on the program and Kay asked him about the process of agreeing to do some appearances on First Take after he was a guest on ESPN last month.

“I went down to do the Bonds and Clemens and the Hall of Fame stuff. He [Stephen A.] texted me a day or so prior asking if I wanted to come in,” Russo explained. “I came in two Wednesdays ago. I did the two segments. I think we did one on Rodgers and Brady and the Hall of Fame prior. I ran to do the High Heat… went home to do radio. The next day, Stephen A. called me and said are you interested? I said, you want to put something together, I’m all for it.

“ESPN gave me a deal to do these Wednesday shows. Steve picked the day. I will do 40 for the year. Got to be excited by that. Stephen A. is a great guy and he knows how to get his points across. I’ll see if I can hang in with him.”

La Greca asked Russo what he thinks makes a good debater, to which he brought up three characteristics. But besides being a good debater, Russo said he has to be cognizant of the fact that First Take is Smith’s show and not to take away the focus from there.

“You got to be a good salesman. You’ve got to be able to sell your point even if it’s out there in left field, you still got to be able to sell it,” said Russo.

“If you can sell your point with confidence and with some personality, that goes a long way. The second thing is you have to be loud… I learned this because at times I was too noisy and too much of a bully. I think to be fair about it, you have to give the other guy a chance to talk. I have to keep that in mind when I do this. It’s his show. Stephen’s show and he invited me on. I may not come out guns a-blazin’ right away, I have to get my feet wet, but I will get into it as I go along.”

As Russo prepares to debate Smith on a weekly basis, he told Rosenberg that the NBA and a big boxing match are two sports that he will have to dive into a little bit more to put up a good debate:

NBA regular season. I follow the NBA regular season and I know what’s going on… I have a good feel of it, but I’m not sitting there watching necessarily in January and February non-stop NBA regular season games,” Russo said.

“I think that’s one thing I’m going to have to be a little more adept at. I think the second thing probably is when we get a big boxing event, I’m going to have to be into that because I know Stephen A. loves boxing. Those two would be the things I will have to be on top of.”

These debates between Russo and Smith should be must-see TV on a weekly basis and provide a lot of noise, energy, and information to the debate desk. 

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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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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