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.
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.
FOX Sued for Patent Infringement Over NFL Scheduling
“Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.”
An analytics company is suing FOX over claims that the network developed a mapping tool using their patented technology to create a season slate of NFL games.
Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.
The lawsuit claims FOX used access to Recentive’s predictive analytics tools to develop a resource of their own that would create optimal schedules for its 1 and 4 p.m. NFLwindows.
The company is seeking a declaration that FOX infringed on two of its patents. Recentive is also suing for damages and wants an injunction keeping FOX from using Recentive tech and preventing the network from “selling, offering for sale, marketing or using any internal network and mapping analytics tool for the scheduling and regionalization of events covered by the patents.”
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He works full-time as a multimedia specialist at the Virginia State Corporation Commission, while also putting in part-time work for News Radio WRVA and 910 The Fan in Richmond. Additionally, you can find Jordan contributing coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly and ABC 8News. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.
FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage
“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”
The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.
Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.
“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.
Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.
How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.
NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake
“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”
The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.
“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”
Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.
Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.
Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”