After an offseason filled with questions, ESPN gave some answers today regarding its plans for its various NFL pregame shows in 2019.
Sam Ponder will return for a third season as host of Sunday NFL Countdown. Joining her in the studio will be Matt Hasselback, Randy Moss, Rex Ryan, and Louis Riddick. Teddy Bruschi is the new addition to the studio team. He replaces Charles Woodson, who was let go at the end of the 2018 season.
Adam Schefter and Chris Mortenson will continue to serve as insiders for the show. Josina Anderson, Jeff Darlington, Dan Graziano, Sal Paolantonio and Dianna Russini will be in-stadium reporters, while Jac Collinsworth provides feature reporting.
Moss and Riddick will pull double duty. They will also be a part of Monday Night Countdown alongside Steve Young and host Suzy Kolber. Michelle Beisner-Buck will serve as the show’s feature reporter.
Adam Schefter’s role changes for Monday nights. He will now travel to the site of each week’s game.
TV Movie Inspired by Skip Bayless’ Marriage In The Works
“Skip and Ernestine broke the news that a movie is currently in its final stages of approval with the network GAC.”
It appears a cheesy, Hallmark-style movie inspired by a book written by Skip Bayless and his wife will be headed to your TV screens in the future.
Bayless and his wife, Ernestine Sclafani Bayless, co-authored a book in 2019 called Balls: How To Keep Your Relationship Alive When You Live With A Sports-Obsessed Guy. The book has generally positive reviews on Amazon.
Skip has been married to Ernestine for 17 years, and Skip has opened up about how he prioritizes work over his marriage.
Talking on his podcast, The Skip Bayless Show, Skip and Ernestine broke the news that a movie is currently in its final stages of approval with the network GAC.
“By the way, from our book, it’s going to be a movie of the week at some point,” Ernestine said. “Right? I told you they’re making it a movie of the week on GAC.”
She added that “right now it’s in legal.”
GAC is a rival of Hallmark, but is known for its positive, family-friendly movies often with the cheesiest of storylines.
Could ESPN Spin-Off From Disney For Merger With EA Sports?
“EA Sports, the maker of popular sports video game franchises like the Madden and FIFA series, was near a deal with NBCUniversal for a merger. That fell apart due to a disagreement over the price and power structure of the new company.”
Right now, Disney is very happy to have ESPN amongst its many entertainment properties, but that could change. That was evident last week during the company’s upfront presentation to advertisers.
Still, rumors persist about Bob Chapek being willing to spin off the network as its own company. Dylan Byers of Puck News reports that one rumor making the round has Disney setting ESPN up for a merger with EA Sports.
EA Sports, the maker of popular sports video game franchises like the Madden and FIFA series, was near a deal with NBCUniversal for a merger. That fell apart due to a disagreement over the price and power structure of the new company. That leaves EA as a free agent and Disney, Amazon and Apple have all expressed interest.
A merger with the video game giant would make a lot of sense for ESPN. It would give that network a significant presence with the exclusive video game of the NFL. It would also position the network to be a major part of the revived college football video game, which is set to return to the market in 2023.
Byers writes that there is “some notable history” between Disney and EA Sports.
“In 2018, following the sudden resignation of ESPN chief John Skipper, then-Disney CEO Bob Iger tried to recruit [Electronic Arts CEO Andrew] Wilson to be the head of the sports network. Wilson passed and the job went to Jimmy Pitaro.”
Electronic Arts, EA Sports’ parent company, would be a smart acquisition for Disney. Electronic Arts already has a partnership to make the Star Wars video games. Acquiring the company would not only give ESPN a presence across all of EA Sports’ titles. It would also give Disney an in-house studio to develop new video games for its mega-franchises like Marvel and Pixar.
Wilson has been aggressive in the past about partnering with Disney. As recently as March, according to Byers, he was pitching the company on “a more meaningful relationship” than just marketing deals. Bob Chapek rejected that proposal. The difference between what was proposed then and what a future deal between ESPN and EA Sports might look like in unclear.
Lauren Shehadi: Ernie Johnson Is The Model For Studio Hosts
“To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness.”
In addition to her job at MLB Network being a host on MLB Central, Lauren Shehadi is hosting TBS’s Tuesday night baseball coverage each week with Jimmy Rollins, Curtis Granderson, and Pedro Martinez. The Tuesday night games are new for Turner Sports this year after doing only Sunday games during the regular season in addition to the network’s postseason coverage.
Shehadi was a guest on The Kyle Koster Show this week and she was asked what the goal was for her with the MLB on TBS Tuesday broadcasts. She takes a lot of inspiration from what she sees on Inside The NBA on TNT.
“I always think about Ernie Johnson in the same building. To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness. He gets the most out of Shaq and Kenny [Smith] and Charles [Barkley]. If there’s no ego involved, it’s all about how the show can be so great.
“You look at him and you think how can I be like that? You want to be authentic and be yourself, but in the sense of getting the best out of your guys and girls that you talk to every day. That was my goal going in, Be authentic.”
Shehadi said she gets to spend a lot of time with Johnson and the rest of the Turner Sports crew. Tuesday nights tend to be something of a corporate family reunion.
“On Tuesday nights, we all sit in a room and we all watch NBA, MLB, and NHL when it’s on. We get Shaq’s reaction to Sandy Alcantara’s slider in real-time. What we see from Inside The NBA is when they do demos. When they get up and walk and they are casual and they do little bits, that’s what we try to take to our show, but we want it to feel authentic.”
When Shehadi isn’t hosting Turner Sports’ baseball coverage, she is a part of MLB Central every weekday on MLB Network with Robert Flores and Mark DeRosa. On that show, the goal for her is how to make baseball relatable to everyone:
“That’s the sweet spot of MLB Central. No question is silly. Nobody is smarter than the other. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at each other. It is just a fun 4 hours, grab your coffee, let’s talk the game, let’s laugh because life is short and baseball is fun.”