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ESPN Facing Several Decisions on ‘Sunday NFL Countdown’ Crew

Sean McVay told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that he’ll return to the Los Angeles Rams for 2022, but ESPN reportedly wants him as an analyst if he decides to leave coaching.



ESPN’s Sunday Night Countdown could have a very different look next season, depending on the contractual situations of several .

In his Sports Clicker newsletter (subscribe here), the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reports that Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck, and Samantha Ponder are nearing the end of their contracts.

This could provide opportunities for the names that are reportedly being pursued for analyst positions during the postseason. Those rumblings figure to gain heat now that the 2021 NFL season is officially finished.

Sean Payton might be better suited for a studio analyst role if he intends to return to coaching after a year off. And though Sean McVay told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that he’ll return to the Los Angeles Rams for the 2022 season (his contract runs through 2023), Marchand reports that ESPN definitely wants him as an analyst if he decides to leave coaching after winning Super Bowl LVI. (Pete Carroll was the third name mentioned by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler in a report last month.)

Both Alex Smith and Robert Griffin III earned praise from critics and fans for their work this past season, and could be up for spots on Sunday NFL Countdown.

Marchand reports that Booger McFarland and Brian Griese also have expiring contracts, which could affect additional shows including NFL Primetime and Monday Night Football, along with ESPN/ABC’s college football coverage.

ESPN could also move some talent from NFL Live, which was revitalized with its new regular crew of Laura Rutledge, Marcus Spearks, Dan Orlovsky, and Mina Kimes. But as Marchand points out, that carries considerable risk. If, for example, the network moved Rutledge to replace Ponder on Sunday, that would diminish a successful daily program which has more appeal with viewers.

One name that could add some sizzle to Sunday NFL Countdown is Ryan Clark, whose profile continues to rise at ESPN and warrants a larger role. In a December interview with The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch, Clark said he wants to be on a Sunday studio show, which he considers the highest-profile job in his profession.

Clark signed an extension with ESPN a year ago and surely doesn’t want to see a popular personality who appears across network programming (Get Up, SportsCenter, First Take, in addition to NFL Live) go elsewhere. Now, the opportunity appears to be available to give him the Sunday studio role he covets.

Sports TV News

ESPN Releases Details For Joe Buck’s PGA Championship Broadcast

“Michael Collins will serve as Buck’s co-host.”



Omaha Productions and ESPN are getting ready for the PGA Championship. News broke last week that Joe Buck would make his ESPN debut at the center of alternative coverage of the event. Now the network is sharing a few details of the broadcast.

Michael Collins will serve as Buck’s co-host. ESPN’s senior golf analyst will bring the perspective of a former caddie to the broadcast as well as the humor of a former comedian.

The duo will welcome plenty of guests too. The lineup suggests that while the broadcast will be built around golf, the conversations could go anywhere. Troy Aikman, Josh Allen, Charles Barkley, Doris Burke, Fred Couples, Jon Hamm, and Peyton & Eli Manning are all scheduled to make appearances.

“We loved doing Monday Night Football with ESPN and the entire Omaha team has been looking forward to producing alternate telecasts that celebrate other sports,” Peyton Manning said in a press release. “As one of golf’s majors, the PGA Championship is a perfect place to do our first one for golf and we look forward to working with Joe, Michael and everyone in ESPN’s golf team.”

Joe Buck and Michael Collins will be on TV for all four days of the PGA Championship. They will be on for four hours each day. The broadcast will alternate between ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN+ depending on where the traditional coverage of the event is airing.

The PGA Championship with Joe Buck & Michael Collins is the latest offering from ESPN’s deal with Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions. The company has also committed to produce alternate coverage of MMA and college football broadcasts in the future.

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Sports TV News

Tom Brady To Join FOX At End Of Career

“Whether or not Tom Brady is great on TV remains to be seen. What is certain is that the network just added star power that is unmatched amongst other networks that carry NFL games.”



Tom Brady won’t be in the booth this season for FOX, but he will be there eventually. The network’s PR account tweeted that as soon as Brady is ready to call it a career, he will join Kevin Burkhardt to call the biggest game on the network’s slate each week.

“We are delighted that Tom has committed to joining the Fox team and wish him all the best during this upcoming season,” FOX CEO Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement.

FOX has made no secret of its desire to bring Brady aboard. The network has been courting him ever since he announced his retirement in February. The desire to pair him with Burkhardt was first reported in March by Andrew Marchand of The New York Post.

This news raises questions about the future for a lot of the parties involved. First, who will be Burkhardt’s partner this season? Tom Brady has committed to play for the Buccaneers. Next, what does this mean for the quarterback’s future? Does this guarantee that 2022 will be his final season in the NFL? Finally, what now for Greg Olsen? He had been Burkhardt’s partner last season and has expressed interest in continuing to work together.

All of those answers will be addressed in time. Right now, FOX is busy celebrating.

Whether or not Tom Brady is great on TV remains to be seen. What is certain is that the network just added star power that is unmatched amongst other networks that carry NFL games.

That is going to cost them too. Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports that Brady’s FOX paycheck will eclipse $20 million annually.

FOX’s deal with Tom Brady is similar to the one NBC made with Drew Brees before his final season in New Orleans. It allowed the quarterback one more season and promised him a nice landing spot in the media when his playing days are done. We will have to wait and see whether or not FOX will end up waiting longer than the one season NBC did.

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Sports TV News

Ratings for NHL Regional Coverage Down Across Most Of The League

“Only four teams with available data (the Kings, Wild, Panthers, and Red Wings) saw ratings growth in 2021-22.”



While national TV ratings for the NHL season can and should be celebrated, ratings for regional sports networks appear to be a cause for concern. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reported Monday that RSNs across the league were down 23% compared to last year.

The 2020-21 season was shortened to 56 games because of the COVID pandemic.

Only four teams with available data (the Kings, Wild, Panthers, and Red Wings) saw ratings growth in 2021-22. Numbers for Carolina, Nashville and the Canadian teams were unavailable.

Arizona saw the biggest dip year over year. Bally Sports Arizona was down 58% compared to last year. Part of it is understandable. The Coyotes were one of the worst teams in the league.

Viewership for the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning was down 20%. The average rating for games on Bally Sports Sun was 1.49, good enough for 10th of the teams on the list.

The Pittsburgh Penguins had an average rating of 5.43 on AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh this season, which topped the league, but viewership was still down 30% versus last season.

The Seattle Kraken had an average rating of 0.96 for their inaugural season on Root Sports.

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