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The Turmoil Continues For Grantland

Jason Barrett

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The defections at Grantland continued today, as popular staff writer Rembert Browne bolted for New York, adding his name to the growing list of staffers who have left the site since the network cut ties with founder Bill Simmons.

With a staff exodus underway, a clearer picture of the site’s last year of operations has emerged. Though Simmons has only technically been out at Grantland for five months, many began to see the writing on the wall last fall, when Simmons was suspended for calling N.F.L. commissioner Roger Goodell a liar on his podcast.

Insiders at Grantland point out that in the aftermath of Simmons’s suspension, executive vice president Marie Donoghue told the staff that they “shouldn’t worry, because whether or not Bill stays at ESPN, the company is committed to Grantland.”

ESPN management says that Donoghue, who oversaw the site, made that statement because staffers were specifically asking whether they should fear for their jobs, “given Bill’s behavior.” She was trying to calm them down, ESPN brass points out, she wasn’t trying to suggest she and the network didn’t want Bill to stay.

Several key Grantland members, however, took it another way. Says one, “That was the tipping-point moment. What do you mean if Bill’s here or not? Bill is Grantland! What are you talking about? Bristol never recovered with the staff after that.”

Digging deeper into the steaming remains of the ESPN-Simmons divorce, it becomes clear that while the breakup may have been bloody, costly, and emotionally exhausting, it was also certainly worthwhile for both sides.

Over 48 tempestuous hours, in more than 15 conversations with current and former ESPN employees, current and former Grantland staffers, and current ESPN senior management, additional information has surfaced suggesting there were numerous areas of major conflict, and several more defined by personal animosity, fundamental misconceptions, and even accusations of sexism.

As ports of entry into this Byzantine world, we can look to three major stress points.

First: Simmons’s relationship with the rest of ESPN outside Grantland. There was no love lost between the two. During his last year at ESPN, many at the network believe, Simmons still respected and had warm feelings toward executives John Skipper, John Walsh, and several others at the company. It was equally evident to many that he resented the way he was treated by other executives and was largely dismissive of the way they conducted business.

A major fork in the road arose when Magic Johnson left NBA Countdown in 2013 and, Simmons’s associates believe, Bristol was spreading the story that Simmons was to blame, even as Simmons swore to co-workers that he had not put that in motion. Being blamed for Johnson’s departure enraged him, in fact. Try living in L.A. and being regarded as the guy who dumped Magic Johnson.

For ESPN’s part, the animosity was mutual. “Nobody at ESPN wanted to work with Simmons,” says a high-ranking executive. “He was loathed throughout the company. He kept up a long-running diatribe on how terrible it was to work here.”

There were also complaints that Simmons would not allow Grantland writers to contribute to ESPN.com or to the magazine—or, for a long time, to appear on any of ESPN’s TV shows. Some of that was true: The Grantland staff was intent on building the Grantland brand.

And, at least one executive complains—somewhat ironically, given his feelings toward Simmons—that Simmons seldom came to Bristol, but Simmons would tell the Grantland staff and others that it was hard for him to get to Bristol from the site’s Los Angeles headquarters, that he didn’t have the time, and that he didn’t think it necessary. He did, however, go at least once three years in a row, and traveled at least four times a year to New York, where he would meet with the network’s executives.

Nevertheless, bitterness was palpable and plentiful.

Says Donoghue: “I think Bill sometimes tries to associate whatever frustration he had at ESPN onto something with me personally, and I don’t want to play into that narrative. I was one of his biggest champions at ESPN and defended Bill many, many, times.”A senior ESPN executive adds this: “I bet you a dollar to a dime that many of your sources are men who do not like Marie Donoghue, because women are still subject, in the workplace, to a lot of prejudice and lack of acceptance. A lot of people don’t want to work for a woman, even if they say they do.”

To continue reading this article visit Vanity Fair where it was originally published

 

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FOX Doubles Ad Price For Premiere US World Cup Matches

FOX has capitalized by charging $600,000 per 30-second commercial during its coverage of USA/England.

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The 2022 World Cup is underway and the opener received a gigantic ratings increase for FOX Sports. Now, according to a report from Front Office Sports, the network has doubled its ad price for the USA match versus England.

USA/England will air in a lucrative window, at 2:00 PM ET on Black Friday, and FOX has capitalized by charging $600,000 per 30-second commercial during its coverage of the match. That price, according to Front Office Sports reporters Michael McCarthy and Doug Greenberg, is double what the network had asked for from advertisers for other matches.

While the event opener saw a sharp increase, the first match featuring the United States saw a decline from previous World Cup openers for the country. 11.71 million watched the match in the US between FOX Sports and Telemundo. In 2014, 11.1 million watched on ESPN and in 2010 13 million watched the first US match on ABC.

Analysists have predicted FOX Sports could garner nearly $125 million in ad revenue for the duration of the tournament.

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Telemundo’s Miguel Gurwitz Announcing World Cup, NFL Thanksgiving Games For 18 Straight Hours Thursday

With the game expected to end at 2:00 AM local time, that means Gurwitz will be announcing games for over 18 hours on Thursday.

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With the World Cup happening at an unprecedented time, there were bound to be scheduling conflicts. The conflicts for Telemundo’s Miguel Gurwitz, however, might be the real unprecedented nature of the event being played in November.

Gurwitz works on Telemundo’s coverage of the World Cup while calling matches as the secondary play-by-play announcer. Beginning at 11:00 AM in Doha, Gurwitz will work the network’s coverage of the event.

But as the soccer day turns to tonight, Gurwitz will call Telemundo’s broadcast of the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings game from Qatar. With the game expected to end at 2:00 AM local time, that means Gurwitz will be announcing games for over 18 hours on Thursday.

He will also do the feat again on Sunday, as he’ll broadcast World Cup matches for the network during the day and then announce the Packers and Eagles game for Sunday Night Football.

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Kevin Burkhardt: ‘Honor To Be In People’s Homes’ During Thanksgiving Broadcast

“There were a couple on the calendar that I thought that it might hit me and be very, very cool.”

Ricky Keeler

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On Thanksgiving, Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen will call their first Thanksgiving Day game for FOX when the New York Giants take on the Dallas Cowboys (4:30 PM ET). It’s been a memorable year for Burkhardt and Olsen in their first year as the A broadcast team for FOX that will end in the duo calling the Super Bowl in February.

Burkhardt was a guest on The Season with Peter Schrager podcast this week and talked about the honor of getting the chance to be on the call for a Thanksgiving Day game.

“The whole job is big and we are doing big games every week. There were a couple on the calendar that I thought that it might hit me and be very, very cool. One of them was Dallas-Green Bay, which turned out to be epic a couple of weeks ago.

“The playoffs and the Super Bowl will be great, but Thanksgiving Day. Growing up in a football family, it was kind of eating around both games. Catch the early game, halftime, go throw the football in the street, eat the meal between games, then the Cowboys game comes on, you watch that. Maybe halftime you watch or maybe you throw the football again. Watch the rest of the game, you have dessert after the game. That was the day.

“It is an honor because you are in a lot of people’s homes every week. I feel like you really are in people’s homes…. You are kind of like hugging everybody. I think it’s beyond awesome, I really do.”

Burkhardt mentioned to Schrager that he and Olsen knew they had big shoes to fill after taking over for Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (both now at ESPN) and it felt like walking in to a new job, but the A crew at FOX helped them and he liked that he and Olsen got to do it together.

“It’s been awesome. It really has. When you go into a situation like this, Joe and Troy were there for 2 decades, that’s a long time. People have long-standing relationships. Even though I’ve been at FOX for 9 years and Greg was there last year, we are the new guys essentially.

“You walk in, you don’t know how they are going to react to you, what they are going to think of you, if they think you are any good and all that stuff. From Day 1, it was like welcome to the family, we love you. I know that sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s been awesome. It felt like we’ve just fit right in. I think there’s been some cool symmetry, the fact that Greg and I got to do it together because we have such a bond.

“The fact that we got to jump in together I think has kind of been fun and helped us both because he knows me really well and I know him really well. Then, it was just getting everyone else to know us and vice versa.”

The one thing that Burkhardt did have to adjust to was a different style of show and that each production team has different viewpoint and creativity.

“The crew I’ve been on my whole life with Pete Macheska and Artie Kempner, they do a different show than Z (Richie Zyontz) and Russo (Rich Russo) do it. It’s not good, bad, or indifferent. Everyone has different viewpoints and creativity. I think it was just getting used to each other in terms of that, but it’s felt like I’ve worked with them for 25 years. It’s felt seamless. It’s felt fun.”

Even though Burkhardt is now the lead NFL play-by-play voice for FOX, that doesn’t mean he is going to change how he does a game.

“I’m not going to change my style or who I am. I’m not saying I’m not open to critiques and wanting to get better and to get coached. The basis of what I do and how I do it, I’m not going to change that now because I’m on the A crew. They liked me enough to put me here, so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. Maybe tweaks here and there, but if I radically changed now, I’d be a moron.” 

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