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James Blake Joins ESPN

“Blake played tennis professionally from 1999-2013, ranking as high as No. 4 in the world, while winning 10 titles during his career.”

Brandon Contes

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As the first Grand Slam tournament of the 2020 tennis season begins with the Australian Open, ESPN announced they’ve signed eight longtime analysts to new deals, also adding James Blake to their coverage.

Pam Shriver who joined the network in 1990, Patrick McEnroe (1995), Chris McKendry (1996), Joe Fernandez (2000), Brad Gilbert (2004), Darren Cahill (2007), John McEnroe (2009) and Chrissie Evert (2011), will all continue their tenures covering tennis for ESPN after signing new contracts.   

In addition to their returning commentators, ESPN announced retired American tennis player James Blake will join the network for Wimbledon and the US Open later this year. 

“ESPN is proud of the chemistry, experience and broad perspective, both generationally and historically, our roster represents, and we are thrilled the unmatched team will continue intact to provide the best in analysis, insights, opinions and storytelling,” said Jamie Reynolds, ESPN vice president, production.  “When we add someone of the caliber of James Blake, a recognized voice in the sport, to the mix, we’ll be all the stronger, with his intelligence, close ties to the sport and fresh perspective.  He will join us for Wimbledon and the US Open, reflecting the number of hours and volume of content ESPN commits to those events.”

Blake played tennis professionally from 1999-2013, ranking as high as No. 4 in the world, while winning 10 titles during his career. Since retiring, Blake founded the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Cancer Research Fund at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in memory of his father. Blake has also contributed to the Tennis Channel, NBC and CNN as an analyst for the sport.

Six weeks before his father died in 2004, Blake slipped on a clay tennis court and collided with the net post, fracturing his neck. Battling back from the injury, he returned to play nearly a decade professionally. Blake’s 2007 autobiography, Breaking Back: How I Lost Everything and Won Back My Life, detailing his difficult comeback was a New York Times Best Seller.

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

Field Yates Re-Ups With ESPN

After the departure of Matthew Berry to NBC, ESPN has locked down fantasy expert Field Yates with a new contract to remain in Bristol.

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Field Yates

After the departure of Matthew Berry to NBC, ESPN has locked down fantasy expert Field Yates with a new contract to remain in Bristol.

Yates, 35, would have been a valuable target for FanDuel or DraftKings, surmises Andrew Marchand of The New York Post — who first reported the news — due to his large following on Twitter.

Yates, who also works as a host of Fantasy Football Now and NFL Insider for the network, across multiple platforms including ESPN Radio, will continue in those roles in addition to an assumed expansion of fantasy football duties after Berry’s exit.

He has worked for ESPN since 2012.

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Sports TV News

Michael Smith Joining Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football Studio Coverage

“It’s a full-circle moment. It’s back to my roots in many respects. I always wanted to be a part of a national telecast … and here I am,” said Smith.

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Michael Smith is joining Amazon Prime’s Thursday Night Football coverage, he tells USA Today.

“It’s a full-circle moment. It’s back to my roots in many respects. I always wanted to be a part of a national telecast … and here I am,” said Smith.

He will work as a “news analyst” for the streaming platform’s studio show, a role he similarly held for ESPN‘s NFL Sunday Countdown. Former Countdown producer Amina Hussein is the head of on-air sports talent development for Prime.

Smith becomes the latest of a growing cast Prime Video has assembled for Thursday Night Football coverage. Al Michaels and Kirk Herbstreit will work in the broadcast booth, Kaylee Hartung will work the sidelines, Charissa Thompson will anchor the studio show with Tony Gonzalez, Richard Sherman, Aqib Talib, and Andrew Whitworth, and Taylor Rooks will work as a feature reporter. Dude Perfect, a comedy group famous for social media “trick shot videos”, will reportedly offer a Manningcast-style alternate broadcast.

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Sports TV News

Report: ESPN Declines Final Offer From Big Ten

Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports ESPN declined a seven-year, $380 million per year offer from the Big Ten to remain a media partner of the conference.

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What came as speculation Monday night is now being reported as fact: ESPN is out of the Big Ten media rights negotiations.

Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports ESPN declined a seven-year, $380 million per year offer from the Big Ten to remain a media partner of the conference. ESPN has owned, at least a portion, of Big Ten football and basketball rights for 40 years.

The Big Ten is expected to announce a partnership with Fox, CBS, and NBC that will see three conference games air on network television each Saturday. Fox will air the Big Ten during their Big Noon Kickoff timeslot, CBS will replace the SEC with the Big Ten at 3:30 eastern, and NBC will feature a Big Ten game in primetime.

Several reports put the Big Ten’s latest television rights deal at or exceeding $1 billion per year. CBS is expected to pay roughly $350 million for the Big Ten package.

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