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Whitlock Out As Head of ESPN Website

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Jason Whitlock was replaced Friday as the head of The Undefeated, ESPN’s website about the intersection of race and sports, just weeks before its planned kickoff.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by Leon Carter, the site’s editorial director.

The site was built largely around Whitlock, who has written for years about race, sometimes provocatively, sometimes angrily. He had been fired from a previous stint at ESPN in 2006.

But John Skipper, the president of ESPN, rehired him in 2013 to fulfill the company’s hope for a site that would be a hub to discuss race and sports. In late March, Skipper praised Whitlock for “being unafraid to take unpopular stands, to challenge the perceived wisdom of any community.” As for bringing Whitlock back, Skipper said, “Talent and intellect can overrule past problems.”

But it was not to be. Whitlock had no management experience but returned to ESPN as part of the hierarchy that had a role in hiring and strategy. He was also editing articles and writing columns.

In a statement, ESPN did not cite any recent incidents that prompted the change but implied that he did not have the management skills to run the site.

The company “decided to make some structural adjustments that will maximize the skill sets and strengths of our team,” ESPN said. The statement also said Whitlock “will now be entirely focused on what he does best: creating distinctive and compelling content, which will live across various ESPN platforms.” ESPN praised his work building the site’s editorial team.

Asked in March how he felt he was evolving as a manager, Whitlock replied, “I think it’s going well because I’m taking it seriously.” He added, “You’ve got to have enough self-awareness to know that you’re going to make mistakes. You can’t let your ego tell you, ‘I’m smarter than everyone, so I don’t make mistakes.’ I’m not smarter than anyone. I’m still the guy with a 2.3 G.P.A.”

A lengthy story in April about The Undefeated on Deadspin — which drew on internal documents, including emails — painted Whitlock as a “catastrophe” as a manager and said, “Before it’s even launched, this site is already doomed.”

The site’s staff, based in Los Angeles, was given the news about Whitlock in a telephone call with Marie Donoghue, the ESPN executive who oversees The Undefeated.

Despite the announcement, the home page of The Undefeated still read: “Presented by ESPN & Jason Whitlock. Coming Summer 2015.”

The turmoil caused by Whitlock’s departure — and the search for his permanent successor — will most likely require a further delay of the site’s debut.

Whitlock declined to comment on the matter, as did Skipper.

Whitlock’s ouster means that a second major site created by ESPN needs a new leader. Last month, Skipper decided he would not renew the contract of Bill Simmons, the editor in chief of Grantland, the sports and culture site that was home to his columns and podcasts. Explaining the decision, Skipper said: “It’s about what he wants to do, what value that creates, what we want to do together and deciding whether there was going to be a match. We decided ultimately there wouldn’t be.”

An agreement was soon reached for Simmons to be paid through the end of September, when his contract is to end, but he will no longer run Grantland.

Chris Connelly subsequently took over as the site’s interim editor in chief.

Nate Silver, around whom the FiveThirtyEight site is built, remains atop its masthead as editor in chief.

So far, only five articles have been published by The Undefeated — including one about Charles Barkley’s Alabama’s roots — all with links on its home page.

Credit to the NY Times who originally published this article

Sports TV News

Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX

“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”

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FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.

A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.

The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.

Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.

That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.

Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.

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FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”

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The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.

Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.

Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”

Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.

“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.

FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.

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Sports TV News

NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC

“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”

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ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.

ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.

This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.

Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.

“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”

ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.

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