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ESPN Pulls The Plug on Grantland

Jason Barrett

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The network said the site was “suspended” effective immediately, and a senior ESPN source confirmed that there are no plans to bring it back.

“After careful consideration, we have decided to direct our time and energy going forward to projects that we believe will have a broader and more significant impact across our enterprise,” ESPN said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The surprising announcement came five months after ESPN split up with Grantland’s founding editor Bill Simmons. There has been an exodus of talent from the site since then.

About 40 writers, producers and editors will be affected by the decision. Writers who have contracts will be honored. Some will continue to write for ESPN’s website and produce videos for the ESPN Films unit.

But an unknown number of others will be leaving. Some of the site’s most distinctive work, like its television show recaps and features about movies, will be going away.

“We’re getting out of the pop culture business,” the senior ESPN source said.

ESPN executives are meeting with the affected staffers on Friday afternoon. Michael Baumann, a freelancer, complained that he found out about the closure through Twitter, not from the company directly.

There was such an outpouring of affection for the site that “Grantland” was a top trending topic on Twitter within half an hour of the announcement.

“I loved Grantland more than I’ve ever loved anything on the Internet,” wrote alum Kevin Lincoln, now an editor for New York magazine.

ESPN’s statement praised Grantland for having “quality writing, smart ideas, original thinking and fun” and singled out Simmons for being “an outstanding editor with a real eye for talent.”

Simmons’ replacement, Chris Connelly, will “return to his prior role” at “SportsCenter” and the newsmagazine “E:60,” the statement said.

An ESPN spokeswoman said the company remains “totally committed” to two of its other digital offshoots, FiveThirtyEight and The Undefeated. Those two were modeled after Grantland.

Half an hour after the announcement, Simmons tweeted his reaction to the news: “Watching good/kind/talented people get treated so callously = simply appalling.”

In retrospect, the shuttering of Grantland may have started many months ago. Simmons’ divorce with ESPN came after he frequently clashed with the channel’s higher-ups.

He was hit with a well-publicized suspension last year after he practically dared his bosses to discipline him for his public criticism of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In May, Simmons found out via a story in The New York Times that his contract was not being renewed. Since then, he has continued to criticize ESPN in public appearances and on his podcast. He recently commented that the network “is in the bag for the NFL.”

In the first half of 2016 Simmons will start hosting a weekly series for HBO.

Credit to CNN who originally published this article

Sports TV News

Chris Fallica Leaving ESPN for FOX

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Jordan Bondurant

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A prominent sports betting voice featured on ESPN’s College GameDay will be heading to rival FOX and their Big Noon Kickoff show starting in 2023. According to Awful Announcing, Chris Fallica, affectionately known as “The Bear”, will make his last appearance on GameDay will be this weekend.

Fallica has been with ESPN since 1995. Since 2013, Fallica had been featured on GameDay making betting picks with his patented “Bear’s Board”.

Neither FOX or ESPN would comment on the situation, but in the Awful Announcing report it’s believed that there will be a send-off of some sort for Fallica on Saturday.

Fallica joins Tom Rinaldi as the second former GameDay voice to jump over to FOX and be featured on Big Noon Kickoff.

Both shows have experienced incredible viewership growth this season. For GameDay, there have been several weeks this season that have seen some of the largest audiences in the show’s history.

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Sports TV News

Tim Brando Believes Executives Look For Familiarity, Not Great Voices For Announcers

“Executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio. As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Tim Brando has seen the broadcasting industry has evolved in a lot of ways through the years, but one thing that’s remained constant is how infrequently some of the announcing gigs with major networks open up to younger voices.

That’s mainly because you have veteran talent already occupying those positions with no plans for the immediate future to step aside.

On a recent edition of The Sports Talkers Podcast, FOX Sports broadcaster and host Tim Brando spoke to Stephen Strom about the reality that many broadcasters face.

“Yeah there are a lot more jobs, but there are fewer great jobs,” Brando said. “A lot of guys are getting jobs, but it’s like a dead end.”

But in terms of hiring younger talent for network jobs, he thinks it’s become more about adding faces to broadcast booths rather than voices.

“There’s a tendency I think now in our business to hire more visible and perhaps more popular talent because they’ve been in the studio,” he said. “But they’re not ready to be in the booth. Not everybody can do both well.”

Tim added that there’s a nuance to calling play-by-play versus working studio coverage. Brando said that perhaps it has a lot more to do with young broadcasters bypassing getting their start in radio and going right into TV.

“It seems to me that in some circles anyway in our business, executives are going more for people they think they audience knows from having been in the studio,” he said. “As opposed to man that’s a great voice, that guy really gets it, and his judgement is fantastic.”

Brando did mention some of the younger voices at FOX who have risen to the bigger opportunities in the booth, and how they ultimately worked their way up. He said he’s had the chance to offer advice to a few of them and act as a mentor in a way, because that’s how it was for him breaking into the industry.

“I believe in pouring into the young broadcasters out there, I really do,” he said. “Because Curt Gowdy poured into me. I think there’s a responsibility and a level of accountability for the generation before to help those that are coming up that you really respect.”

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Sports TV News

MLB Network Airing 38 Hours of Winter Meetings Coverage

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jordan Bondurant

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The annual winter meetings for MLB are set to take place in-person for the first time since 2019 next week, and MLB Network is ready to bring viewers all the coverage possible from San Diego.

The network is devoting 38 hours of live programming on-site, with shows like MLB Tonight, Hot Stove, High Heat, MLB Now and Intentional Talk emanating from the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Coverage will begin on Sunday at 7 p.m. with MLB Tonight leading into the announcement of the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee’s election results for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fans tuning in to MLB Network can expect to see Greg Amsinger, Fran Charles, Brian Kenny, Stephen Nelson, Alanna Rizzo, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, Lauren Shehadi and Matt Vasgersian hosting their respective shows throughout the week. Sean Casey, Mark DeRosa, Al Leiter, Cameron Maybin, Kevin Millar, Dan O’Dowd, Steve Phillips and Harold Reynolds will contribute coverage as analysts.

MLB Network will also carry coverage of the inaugural draft lottery from the winter meetings on Tuesday, December 6 at 8:30 p.m.

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