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Ariel Helwani Agrees to Join ESPN

Jason Barrett

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Mixed martial arts journalist, Ariel Helwani, is joining ESPN covering the sport across all platforms including a new weekly show on ESPN+, Ariel & The Bad Guy, with co-host Chael Sonnen.

Helwani has covered MMA since 2006, spending the last two years with SBNation, following a tenure at Fox Sports. The seven-time winner of “MMA Journalist of the Year” has had a number of quarrels with the UFC, even receiving a lifetime ban on access to credentials earlier in 2016. 

After reporting Brock Lesnar would return for UFC 200, prior to the UFC being able to announce it, Helwani was escorted out of UFC 199 and told by president Dana While he would no longer be credentialed by the UFC “as long as I’m here.” The ban was revisited and revoked just two days later.

The restriction came a few months after Helwani departed from Fox Sports. Following the ban, Helwani admitted his paychecks, while working for Fox Sports, were signed by Zuffa, UFC’s parent company. For a journalist, this is unusual and even unethical in terms of maintaining an ability to provide unbiased coverage of a sport while being paid by that said sport. Helwani went on to state he believed he was fired by Fox Sports under the influence of the UFC, which was denied by Fox.

Helwani’s most recent employment stop, SB Nation, had no affiliation with the UFC, but ESPN does after recently announcing an agreement to bring exclusive content, including 15 fights to their newly launched direct-to-consumer subscription platform, ESPN+. Even with the partnership, it should be safe to assume Helwani’s ESPN checks will be signed by Disney and not the UFC’s current owner, Endeavor.

“Ariel is a dynamic and talented insider, whose insights and acumen will expand and enhance our multimedia coverage of the mixed martial arts world. Pairing Ariel and Chael, the insider and the fighter, on ESPN+ is going to make for an energetic and engaging show that will be must-see for any MMA fan,” said Rob King, ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Original Content, Newsgathering & Digital Media.

Helwani’s new show with co-host Chael Sonnen, Ariel & The Bad Guy, will debut on ESPN+ June 20th. New episodes will be available each Wednesday, as well as specials before and after major MMA events.

Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

Sports TV News

Potential Big Ten/ESPN Deal Did Not Include ESPN Plus Option

“I’ve been told ESPN’s deal did not include direct-to-consumer on ESPN+, it was a strict linear television deal.”

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN, BIG TEN

A shockwave went thru the sports media landscape on Tuesday when reports surfaced that the Big Ten would not be awarding a media rights deal with longtime partner ESPN. Since then, more details have come out about why the two might not be in business together after this season.

On The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, John Ourand added another piece of the puzzle that could offer some illumination. According to his reporting and sources, ESPN wanted to be able to offer Big Ten games on their direct-to-consumer streaming option, ESPN+ and the Big Ten didn’t receive that well.

“I’ve been told ESPN’s deal did not include direct-to-consumer on ESPN+, it was a strict linear television deal.”

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Sports TV News

Bill Spaulding to Become New Jersey Devils New TV Play-by-Play Voice

Spaulding will replace Steve Cangialosi on the MSG Network broadcasts.

Jordan Bondurant

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New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils will have a new TV play-by-play voice when the puck drops on the 2022-23 season in October.

According to sources, Ryan Novozinsky of NJ.com reported the team has hired Bill Spaulding for the job. Spaulding will replace Steve Cangialosi on the MSG Network broadcasts.

Cangialosi left as the team’s play-by-play man at the end of this past season. He had been with the team for 11 seasons.

Spaulding is a Syracuse University grad and has previously called Olympic hockey, as well as college games, on NBC. Additionally, Spaulding has experience calling college sports for ESPN. He’s a recipient of the Jim Nantz Award, which is given each year to the nation’s top collegiate sportscaster.

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Sports TV News

FOX Says NFL Ad Sales Up From 2021, ‘Record Pricing’ Expected for Super Bowl LVII

“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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