Sports TV News
No Regrets For Eisen Leaving ESPN
The 2015 NFL season kicks off tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET when the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the New England Patriots. To help get you in the mood, we caught up with NFL Network anchor Rich Eisen to discuss his show, leaving ESPN and why he runs the 40-yard dash in a suit. Eisen also tells us his favorite meals, TV shows and admits his love for Jon Stewart.
In addition to being the face of the NFL Network, Eisen hosts The Rich Eisen Show weekdays from noon-3 p.m. ET on DirecTV channel 229. The show is also syndicated via Premiere Radio Networks, airs on Fox Sports Radio and is available on the NFL Now app.
TVNewser: You are getting ready to celebrate the first anniversary of The Rich Eisen Show. How’s the show doing these days?
Eisen: The show is doing great. The lights still work. And apparently, with the phone lines lighting up every day, so do the microphones. Our affiliate group is over 190 strong and now includes Sirius/XM Radio with the guest list getting more and more diverse by the day. For instance, on the very first day of the first NFL week of the season, we had both the Captain of the New York GiantsEli Manning and Captain America himself Chris Evans call in to the program. With us launching in the first week of October last year, I can’t wait to be in the chair every single day of the NFL season to take fans along for the ride.
TVNewser: You were the first anchor added to the NFL Network staff when it launched in 2003. Was it a tough decision to leave ESPN for a start-up network?
Eisen: Not really. By the time I left ESPN in 2003, SportsCenter had become a far different show than the one I initially joined in 1996. Thanks to the proliferation of information being consumed on mobile devices and the internet, management changed SportsCenter from being a show where highlights and storytelling ruled the day to a show where analysts ruled the day. In other words, with the growing assumption that people tuning into the show had already seen the highlights, SportsCenter went from a show about WHAT happened to a show about WHY something happened, with a debate between analysts attached. The role of host had changed entirely, so I asked to do other things in addition to SportsCenter. When that was mostly refused by management in charge at the time, moving out to Los Angeles to be the tip of the spear of a new channel devoted to the NFL became a no-brainer.
TVNewser: You famously run the 40-yard dash every year at the NFL Scouting Combine. It’s impressive, but why do you wear a suit?
Eisen: I wear a suit for two reasons. One, it’s my uniform. The Combine athletes run in theirs and I run in mine. Secondly, no one should be subjected to me wearing spandex. Heck, I should never subject myself to that.
TVNewser: You and ESPN’s Adam Schefter both went to Michigan for undergrad and then Northwestern for a master’s degree. So, if a young person out there wants to be an NFL broadcaster… is UM followed by Northwestern basically the road map to success?
Eisen: It’s not a bad roadmap whatsoever. That said, the number of ways to create content and distribute it these day are far greater than the time when Adam and I ran that journalism gauntlet in Ann Arbor and Evanston at the time. I’m sure if Adam had a website on which to blog and I had a YouTube account through which to post my broadcasts and stories on-line back in the day, we would have jumped at those chances. Thankfully it all worked out.
TVNewser: Ok, what’s your favorite meal in the country. Exact restaurant and order, please.
Eisen: On the East Coast: Rao’s. Meatballs, peas and prosciutto. Chicken parm. And toss in a slice of steak to boot. On the West Coast: Craig’s Restaurant in Los Angeles, whitefish grilled with olive oil, sauteed spinach with a cup of marinara sauce on the side.
TVNewser: What non-sports TV show are you currently watching?
Eisen: With Game of Thrones on a break, my wife, Suzy, and I have started re-watching Deadwood on HBO on Demand. It’s truly one of the greatest shows of all time. We hope the rumored movie reboot of the show is actually happening. I also already desperately miss Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Watched him every night. He’s a genius.
Credit to AdWeek who originally published this article
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports TV News
JJ Redick: ESPN Sells The NBA As ‘Only 5 or 6 Teams Matter’
“To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ elimination from the NBA Playoffs, the matchup between the Association’s two most accomplished clubs – the Lakers and Boston Celtics – is no longer a possibility. On Tuesday morning’s edition of First Take on ESPN, JJ Redick suggested how it would be a seminal occurrence for the NBA to have teams from smaller media markets square off for the championship, familiarizing basketball and sports fans at large with new teams and players.
“We somehow have sold the NBA as a league where only five or six teams matter and a league where only five or six players matter,” Redick said on the program. “To me, this could be a watershed moment for the NBA. To me, this could be the best thing possible for the NBA and its fans because we have not done a good job of selling the rest of the NBA.”
Redick pointed out how after Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, the talking points were focused on the Lakers and what the team needed to do to have a legitimate chance to win the series. He reminded people that Nuggets center and two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokić had his third consecutive triple-double, posting an unparalleled statline of 34 points, 21 rebounds and 14 assists.
“We don’t do a good job of selling what the NBA is, which is 30 teams, 450 players [and] multiple superstars,” Redick said. “The fact that people are now being like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize Nikola Jokić was good’…. Well, let’s put him on TV more!”
Stephen A. Smith told Redick that the NBA has not established its games akin to “events” as much as the National Football League. Smith expressed how he has seen pastors change the time of their Sunday sermons in order to ensure they were home to watch professional football games. While football is very much a team sport, Smith offered Redick his perspective that basketball is “built on superstars.”
“The NBA became what it is because it gravitated to individuality,” Smith said. “Even though the Boston Celtics were a great team and the Lakers ultimately were a great team, they sold Magic and Bird. Michael Jordan comes along – they sold Michael Jordan, and obviously, all the names that we don’t need to get into followed. They sold the individual.”
Smith addressed Redick and accentuated the incredible feats of Jokić, but part of what has made him one of sports media’s most prominent personalities is by having a shrewd perception of his audience. ESPN and other major sports networks are fully aware that Los Angeles supersedes Denver in terms of media consumers, and that the Lakers are recognized as an international brand.
“I’m not where I am today if it were not for the NBA,” Smith said. “Basketball has done wonders for my life, and I’m incredibly grateful and thankful, and the NBA will always be promoted on this show. Please understand in the same breath, we also have to pay attention to what the audience wants to hear too.”
Sports TV News
Diamond Sports Group In Danger of Losing Padres TV Rights
“The company has a grace period to deliver the payment that runs through May 30.”
Diamond Sports Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March after failing to make a scheduled debt payment to its creditors. At the time, the company had more than $8 billion in debt and was commencing a process of restructuring. Yet the company stated its Ballys-branded regional sports networks would continue to operate as usual. Major League Baseball decided to take action though and establish a plan to broadcast games locally if the company missed a rights payment.
Now, it is looking that is exactly what will happen. Diamond missed a payment to the San Diego Padres last week, meaning the team’s media rights could soon be the property of Major League Baseball. The company has a grace period to deliver the payment that runs through May 30. If it were to miss the payment, it would mark the first time it will relinquish a contract in this way.
“Despite Diamond’s economic situation, there is every expectation that they will continue televising all games they are committed to during the bankruptcy process,” Major League Baseball said in a statement. “Major League Baseball is ready to produce and distribute games to fans in their local markets in the event that Diamond or any other regional sports network is unable to do so as required by their agreement with our club.”
The company’s current contract with the San Diego Padres has nine years and approximately $540 million remaining with an escalator clause built into the deal. This means that the final year of the deal would cost Diamond Sports Group more than $70 million in rights fees, and while the team is in the top five for television deliveries, the entity perhaps may not view it as sustainable. The momentum headed in this direction was first reported by John Ourand of Sports Business Journal.
The company has also pushed Major League Baseball teams to agree to deals to stream the games in order to recoup lost cable revenue. By being granted the rights to stream games directly to consumers, Diamond Sports Group has vowed to pay the rights fees it owes to nine MLB teams. The company currently has the streaming rights for just five of the 14 major league clubs on its regional sports networks.
Some industry experts believe Diamond Sports Group is utilizing this stalemate to be able to exit media rights deals that are losing the company money. For example, the Diamondbacks’ media rights contract garners an annual payment of about $68 million while amassing the second-lowest local television ratings of any Major League Baseball team.
On May 31, a bankruptcy judge will establish how much money Diamond Sports Group owes its clubs for media rights fees while in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and whether it can continue broadcasting games at this time. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins filed emergency motions urging the judge to coerce Diamond Sports Group to make their payments. If the company is unable to distribute payments, the emergency motion calls for teams to issue default notices to the regional sports networks, which could permit the termination of media rights contracts.
Sports TV News
Devin McCourty Joining Football Night in America on NBC
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity from NBC Sports to learn from great individuals, chase new goals and provide viewers with my thoughts on the biggest games every week.”
NBC Sports has enhanced its roster of football analysts with the signing of Devin McCourty. He will join the cast of Football Night in America leading up to each week’s broadcast of Sunday Night Football.
McCourty is a three-time Super Bowl champion and played his entire 13-year career as a defensive back with the New England Patriots, and has the record for most career playoff games started by a defensive player.
“It’s rare when you have the opportunity to add a three-time Super Bowl-winner to your team, and we’re excited to welcome Devin McCourty to Football Night following an incredible NFL career,” said Sam Flood, executive producer and president of production at NBC Sports. “Devin is a leader in every sense of the word, both on and off the field, and his dynamic personality and passion for the game will be a great addition to the show.”
McCourty’s twin brother, Jason, currently works on the cast of NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, and the two co-hosted a podcast together while playing called Double Coverage. Devin was a guest host on Good Morning Football earlier in the season and also contributed to pregame coverage on The NFL Today and NFL Draft content for CBS Sports.
“I’m excited to be a rookie on the best team in America again,” McCourty said in a statement. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity from NBC Sports to learn from great individuals, chase new goals and provide viewers with my thoughts on the biggest games every week.”