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Glasspiegal: Witten Could Get ESPN a Super Bowl

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Ryan Glasspiegal has an interesting new column up at The Big Lead. While others are spending another Tuesday mocking Jason Witten and his verbal gaffes on Monday Night Football, Glasspiegal argues that Witten may be the key to better matchups and an eventual Super Bowl on ESPN.

He writes that it is no secret that ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro has been working hard to mend a relationship with the league that became strained under John Skipper’s leadership. Glasspiegal points to Sean McDonough’s and Jon Gruden’s harsh criticism of the league and its officiating as further upsetting to NFL brass. He rehashes the old rumor that the NFL retaliated for the negative coverage by relegating a truly awful slate of games to Monday nights. Witten doesn’t present that kind of critical threat in prime time.

Witten is unlikely to portray the league in a light that its stakeholders will be unhappy with. Even the “left wing” comment, which he later said was a “mix up”, is something actually more likely to endear him with traditionalist NFL owners than make them queasy.

Glasspiegal writes that the once-frosty relationship began to ease up the second ESPN hired Witten to be a part of Monday Night Football.

When Jerry Jones announced Witten’s hiring at ESPN’s Upfronts this past May, it was a symbolic moment of bridge-building in ESPN’s relationship with the league.

ESPN would not only like a more appealing slate of games, which it seems to be getting this year with more appearances by high profile teams and marquee players. It would also like to shed the distinction of being the league’s only broadcast partner that isn’t part of the Super Bowl rotation. Glasspiegal writes that a mended relationship will help, but there is another problem standing in ESPN’s way.

In addition to wanting better matchups, ESPN would love to get into the Super Bowl cycle in the next round of league rights. Perhaps the NFL, which loves broadcast television, would not want the game exclusively on cable, but ESPN could easily simulcast the game with ABC.

The network’s coverage of the College Football Playoff could provide an excellent blueprint for how ESPN might package a Super Bowl. The main broadcast could go on ABC with multiple alternate options on the ESPN Networks. Whatever the case, ESPN certainly is the broadcast partner in the best position to work with the NFL to innovate how the biggest event in American sports is presented. If ESPN gets that, and the NFL gets that, and most importantly, if the fans get that, then as Glasspiegal writes about Witten’s frequent verbal gaffes, “are the growing pains not worth it?”

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The NFL Still Considering Multiple Offers For Sunday Ticket

The NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has not bid for the package but has stated it is willing to partner with the new rightsholder for a potential deal.

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Sunday Ticket Negotiations

DirecTV currently has the rights to Sunday Ticket. That deal expires at the end of this upcoming football season. The NFL is expected to make a boatload of cash when they decide which media organization gets the next rights to the package. The only question is… who will that be?

Alex Sherman of CNBC reports that the NFL has had the respective bids of Disney, Apple and Amazon for weeks now. DirecTV has decided not bid for the package. However, they are interested in partnering with the new rightsholder for a potential deal. DirecTV knows that Sunday Ticket is a staple in bars and restaurants and is interested in maintaining those relationships.

Outside of the bar/restaurant industry, success has been limited for the satellite provider with the football package. Fewer than two million subscribers signed up for Sunday Ticket each year which made the package a money-loser for the satellite TV provider.

According to the report, the NFL wants more than $2 billion for the rights and a stake in NFL Media, which is being packaged with Sunday Ticket. Also on the table is the NFL’s mobile rights. The league’s previous mobile agreement with Verizon has ended.

An interesting piece of the negotiations is Sunday Ticket price. According to the report, a buyer would have limited flexibility on pricing. The NFL signed contracts with CBS and Fox and within the framework of those deals, language mandates Sunday Ticket have a premium price. That’s to prevent loss of viewers from the networks that feature local market Sunday afternoon games. So essentially, the price is the price for the consumer.

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F1 Renews With ESPN For U.S. Media Rights

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

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F1 ESPN

The racing series F1 has decided to stick with ESPN through 2025.

ESPN was reportedly in a three-way bidding battle with Amazon and Comcast. According to the report, F1 told both Amazon and Comcast on Friday that they had decline to accept either one’s offer.

The reported value of the three-year contract is set to pay F1 $75-90M per year for the U.S. media rights. Amazon had offered to pay roughly $100M per year, with the right to sublicense to a linear broadcast network. Comcast’s offer was similar to ESPN’s in terms of value and the structure. They also wanted to put select races on it’s streaming service, Peacock.

Netflix was in on the negotiations, as well. The makers of Drive to Survive, the streaming series that many credit with the sport’s explosion in popularity in recent years, wasn’t close on on their financial offer. Also, it seems F1 executives were not ready to put all of its races on a streaming service just yet.

Currently, F1 receives $5M per year for ESPN to broadcast it’s races. ESPN has grabbed about 1.0 million viewers per race. That makes F1 a more than viable option for the network to invest into again. ESPN will be able to put a small number of races on its ESPN+ streaming service exclusively. The vast majority being on ABC or ESPN.

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Skip Bayless Says He And Stephen A. Smith ‘Sorted Out’ Their Disagreement

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

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Skip Bayless

Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless were locked in a war of words last week following the First Take host’s appearance on JJ Redick’s Old Man and the Three podcast.

The origins of their partnership were discussed and Bayless admitted he did not like the way Smith characterized the state of First Take before he arrived on set. Smith insisted that Bayless simply misunderstood what he meant by saying that he was told the show needed him.

Over the weekend, Skip Bayless says he and Stephen A. Smith got together at the Bayless home in California to talk things out in private.

“He was in LA, he came over, we sat by the pool,” he said on the latest episode of The Skip Bayless Show. “It wasn’t the easiest conversation for a while, but we slowly but surely sorted it out. We got through it, and we have been through so much together.”

Bayless reiterated that he considers Smith a brother. They love each other. That doesn’t mean they are always going to remember events the same way or see eye-to-eye all the time.

“Brothers fight. We have fought before. I’m assuming we will fight again.”

Fighting doesn’t mean the relationship is fractured. In fact, Skip Bayless was adamant that he remains closer to Smith than he is to most people in his life.

“I don’t trust easily because of the way I was raised, but I do trust Stephen Anthony Smith. Trust him with my life. Always have and always will. I trust he will always be there for me, and you better believe I will always be there for him.”

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