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TBS’ Alternate NBA All-Star Game Broadcast Draws Under 1 Million Viewers

News of the change only came together a little over a week in advance, which is likely the main reason more viewers didn’t watch the alternate broadcast.

Jordan Bondurant

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The last-second creation of an alternate broadcast feed for last Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game is being blamed for the special presentation not meeting ratings expectations.

The traditional game broadcast on TNT was originally supposed to feature Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, and Charles Barkley on the call. But Turner called an audible and opted for a “Manningcast”-style alternate feed on TBS that had Barkley broadcasting with his Inside the NBA co-hosts Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson. Additionally, Draymond Green was reporting and interviewing players from each team’s bench.

But most All-Star Game viewers opted for the regular broadcast on TNT. Even the Inside the NBA crew on the alternate broadcast didn’t attract many viewers to TBS.

The broadcast on TNT drew an audience of 5.4 million, but the alternate feed only saw 852,000 tune in. The skills competition, 3-point shooting contest and dunk contest on Saturday night had an audience of 4.2 million.

News of the change only came together a little over a week in advance, which is likely the main reason more viewers didn’t watch the alternate broadcast. Perhaps if the decision had been made sooner to allow for proper promotion of the alternate feed, more fans would’ve checked things out.

There’s also the question as to whether or not “ManningCast” style alternate feeds with unconventional commentary emphasizing personalities are as popular with general audience as it appears to be on social media. The “ManningCast” averaged 1.58 million viewers during its 10 telecasts, according to Sports Business Journal, compared to 13.5 million for ESPN’s regular Monday Night Football broadcast.

Yet despite the sub-million number, reception to the presentation was generally positive. So it could be something Turner pursues again in the future.

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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