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Jemele Hill is Leaving SC6 and Moving to The Undefeated

Jason Barrett

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As first reported by Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated, Jemele Hill is leaving the 6pm ET SC6 edition of SportsCenter on ESPN. Hill will leave the show February 2nd to take on a role with The Undefeated, ESPN’s website dedicated to the intersection of sports, race and culture, and as an on-air commentator on programs such as SportsCenterOutside the LinesAround the HornHighly QuestionablePardon the Interruption, E:60 and various radio programs and podcasts produced by ESPN Audio.

“There is an old adage that says, the heart wants what it wants,” said Hill. “I started at ESPN 11 years ago as a columnist and while I have worn many hats in the time since, my true love always has been writing, reporting and commentary. While I have grown in every way imaginable this last year on the 6 p.m. SportsCenter, deep down I knew it wasn’t my calling. I approached (ESPN Executive Vice President, Content) Connor Schell recently and asked if they would consider re-thinking my role. And as has been the case throughout my 11 years at this company, ESPN graciously worked with me to determine the best way for me to continue to do meaningful work.

“My first choice was to work with The Undefeated, a site that covers the intersection of race, African-American culture and sports in creative and compelling ways,” she added. “I admire, trust and have unconditional respect for (ESPN Senior Vice President & Editor-in-Chief) Kevin Merida and The Undefeated staff. I have no doubt we will create amazing content together. I’m also thankful to Connor for not only hearing my request, but being immensely supportive throughout this process. I have longed for some time to return to my roots, so to speak. I’m ecstatic to be in such a supportive environment to explore the next phase in my career.

“I’d also like to thank my co-host Michael Smith for his encouragement, generosity and support,” she said. “I will be cheering him on as the 6 p.m. SportsCenter evolves with him as lead anchor. The SC6 staff also has my utmost gratitude and affection. Thank you for your hard work and contributions.”

Although the narrative being pushed by ESPN suggests Hill requested the role change, others aren’t buying it. FOX Sports Radio host Clay Travis, who’s broken numerous stories on ESPN, has been saying on the air for weeks that Hill would be gone from SC6 after the Super Bowl because the show’s ratings were abysmal.

It’s well documented that Hill put a massive bullseye on ESPN’s reputation when she took President Trump to task on Twitter, labeling him a white supremacist. That was followed up by encouraging Dallas Cowboys fans to boycott sponsors of America’s team, an act which earned her a suspension.

Complicating matters even more was that Hill and Smith’s former program, His and Hers, was drastically different than SportsCenter. When the network attempted to mesh the two together and develop SC6, it left a bad taste in the mouth’s of many traditional viewers, leading them to reject the program. That approach also placed Smith and Hill in a box to deliver a stylistically different version of their show, rather than the one which they were most comfortable executing.

The decline of the program’s ratings, coupled with the dissatisfaction of the show from many involved, led to internal role changes for ESPN managers Rob King, Dave Roberts and Norby Williamson. The Big Lead pointed out that turmoil had existed behind the scenes for quite some time, but there was a possibility of Hill and Smith returning to the daytime lineup to reprise their His & Hers program. Once Smith parted ways though with the duo’s mutual agent, Evan Dick of CAA, it became clear that the pair would soon be heading in different directions.

While Hill may be pursuing a new challenge, the network is counting on Smith to become the lead anchor of the 6pm ET SportsCenter.

“The telecast continues to evolve as our primary mission is serving sports fans no matter the time of day,” Williamson said. “We have clearly learned that viewers expect the most comprehensive news coverage and compelling analysis during the 6 p.m. hour. Michael Smith is an experienced journalist and seasoned commentator and I’m confident that his talents can help us achieve our objectives as we move forward.”

What will be interesting to follow is how Hill adjusts to her new role and if it’s enough to satisfy her long term. It’s certainly possible she could become a permanent fixture on The Undefeated, but her passion for discussing topics beyond sports, and the growth of her profile are likely to earn her future attention from outlets such as CNN or MSNBC. Her current employer could also pursue utilizing her on ABC if they feel a fit makes sense.

Sports TV News

Fox Charging $250,000 For Field of Dreams Game Ads

The revelation from Ourand comes a day after Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said the network was planning “record pricing” for its upcoming Super Bowl in February of 2023.

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For the second consecutive year, Major League Baseball is playing a regular season game at the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. And the 2022 edition has proved to be a lucrative one for Fox.

John Ourand of Sports Business Journal reports Fox has secured more revenue for this year’s game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds than any other regular season game on the network. Ourand also revealed commercials sold for $250,000 each.

The revelation from Ourand comes a day after Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said the network was planning “record pricing” for its upcoming Super Bowl in February of 2023. NBC sold commercials for $7 million during Super Bowl LVI.

Also, per a report from the Des Moines Register, the game will not be held in 2023, as the site develops a complex for youth baseball and softball fields. Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Thomas is part of the ownership group of the site and said “It’s a lot going on. They don’t want to come back if the stadium’s not prepared.”

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Sports TV News

Disney CEO Bob Chapek: ESPN Viewers Under 30 ‘Absolutely Require’ Betting Content

“Our sports fans that are under 30 absolutely require this type of (sports betting) utility,” Chapek said. 

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Disney CEO Bob Chapek alluded to an upcoming partnership with a sportsbook during a second-quarter earnings call.

“Our sports fans that are under 30 absolutely require this type of (sports betting) utility,” Chapek said. 

Disney reported a revenue increase of 26% year-over-year, bringing in $21.5 billion in the quarter. ESPN+ now features 22.8 million subscribers, while Disney+ is at 152.1 million. Hulu, which Disney owns 67% of, now has 46.2 million subscribers.

Also during the call, Chapek discussed what a direct-to-consumer future looks like for ESPN, saying “we’ve negotiated flexibility into our new rights agreements”.

ESPN has continued to invest in the sports betting space, offering shows like Daily Wager, while also announcing the addition of sports betting expert Liz Loza earlier this week.

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Sports TV News

FOX Planning ‘Record Pricing’ for Super Bowl LVII Ads

“It’s obviously such a huge year for us,” Murdoch added later. “We’re looking forward to getting record pricing for the Super Bowl.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Super Bowl 57

FOX shared some lucrative news with investors on its quarterly earnings call on Wednesday. The network said sales for the NFL season are in a very short word: up.

FOX CEO Lachlan Murdoch said “We sold more NFL Sunday advertising in the current upfront market than we did across Sunday and Thursday combined in the prior year’s market.”

He also went on to note that didn’t include commitments made for the network’s presentation of Super Bowl 57 in February.

“This excludes advertising commitments for the upcoming Super Bowl, where we are pacing well ahead of schedule and seeing very robust demand and record pricing levels.”

FOX began selling Super Bowl 57 ads last summer.

Murdoch didn’t share specific numbers regarding Super Bowl sales but in comparison, NBCUniversal sold 3-second spots for upwards of $7 million this last February.

“It’s obviously such a huge year for us,” Murdoch added later. “We’re looking forward to getting record pricing for the Super Bowl, and we’re well ahead of plan in terms of selling our Super Bowl positions.”

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