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More Layoffs Announced at NBC Regional Sports Networks

Brandon Contes

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NBC Sports

Two weeks ago, Variety reported NBCUniversal was bracing for layoffs and after the company’s digital department was hit Monday, more downsizing was announced for their TV brands Tuesday. Three of NBC regional sports networks were significantly affected, NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports Boston and NBC Sports Chicago. 

“Due to the ongoing economic challenges caused by the pandemic and with the need to better position NBCUniversal for the future, we have made a number of difficult decisions to achieve cost savings, including eliminating some roles across the portfolio,” a spokesperson for NBCUniversal said in a statement.

According to The Athletic, at least 17 employees have been let go from NBC Sports Bay Area. After nearly two decades with NBC, Kelli Johnson announced she was informed her contract would not be renewed by the company, but will, however, stay on through the baseball season to cover the Giants in this unique year. Johnson joined NBCSBA in 2014 after past tenures with NBC Sports networks in Houston and DC. 

Other NBCSBA employees impacted by the restructuring included senior director of communications Jay dela Cruz, who was laid off after a quarter century with the company. The Athletic also noted Brian Chen changed his Twitter bio to “free agent,” after working as NBCSBA’s creative and editorial manager. The RSN’s director of social engagement Dann Pedroza was let go after two and a half years with the network. 

According to Chad Finn of The Boston Globe, NBC Sports Boston was also hit hard by the round of layoffs, releasing nearly 20 employees this week. The Globe reported the following on-air personalities have been let go from NBC Sports Boston, anchor Gary Tanguay, Bruins reporter Joe Haggerty, host Danielle Trotta, Celtics reporters Abby Chin and A. Sherrod Blakely. NBC Sports Boston may keep some of their laid off employees for up to 60 days as they continue to cover the Celtics and Bruins throughout the playoffs.

NBC Sports Chicago was also impacted by the company’s downsizing efforts, which unfortunately ended the tenures of Laurence Holmes and Leila Rahimi with the network, along with multiple behind-the-scenes employees. Rahimi relocated to the Midwest to join NBC Sports Chicago in 2015, where she hosted White Sox pre and post, as well as Baseball Night in Chicago. Holmes was a part-time employee and hosted the Football Aftershow following Bears games. The popular Chicago sports personality can still be heard daily with his noon – 2pm radio show on The Score.

UPDATE: Crossing Broad reports that 17 employees were let go from NBC Sports Philadelphia. Among them were Phillies broadcaster Gregg Murphy, NBC Sports Philly Director of Communications Maureen Quilter, and former The 700 Level founder Enrico Campitelli. There were also multiple cuts on the digital side.

The site also reports that as a company, the NBC RSNs are moving away from sideline reporters. Sideline reporters will stay in place through the end of the NHL and NBA seasons. After that, some talent will be reassigned. Others will be released.

Sports TV News

Pedro Martinez: ‘Never Imagined’ TV Career

“And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.”

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As the Major League Baseball season comes to a close and preparations for the playoffs begin, MLB Network and TNT analyst Pedro Martinez joined The Press Box podcast to discuss his time as a television analyst.

When asked what he liked about working in television, Martinez didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“I think it’s a platform and the opportunity I have to bring to the audience what I know, what I think, what I understand and broadcasting gives me the opportunity to continue to have that communication with the people, the young athletes and fans. At the same time, I’m able to continue to learn and transmit some of the things that I would love to show everybody by playing but my body doesn’t allow me, but my mind does.

“This is a great way to bring the right information to the people, but I take advantage of the platform to communicate with my fanbase, the player’s fanbase, and the voice behind the players and the situations that come up, I can actually teach the audience some of the things that I understand from my point of view.”

A media career was never in the cards for Martinez. At least that’s what he thought during his playing career.

“I swear to god, it’s the only thing I never imagined. I never thought I would like being in front of a camera,” Martinez said. “And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.

“You learn so much just by having access to information, having access to so many other different things. A lot of people would be surprised how much you can dig into and I think for everybody else, if they knew the kind of information we have access to, they’d be intrigued to come do what we do.”

He then said one of the things he would have never picked up on was how many pitchers tip their pitches, but due to all of the information, video, and relationships broadcasters have make that information readily available. He added his work in television has enabled more relationships with baseball players from his home country, the Dominican Republic.

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Sports TV News

Stephen A. Smith and Malika Andrews Get Heated Over Ime Udoka Coverage

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

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Stephen A. Smith, Malika Andrews

On Friday’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith continued his stance regarding the public leaking of information surrounding Celtics’ Head Coach Ime Udoka relationship with a team staffer. He also went further by sharing his dismay that Udoka was seemingly the only person punished for the violation of company policy.

“Only he is in violation of the company policy?” Smith asked. “The woman who elected to have a consensual relationship with him is not in violation?” 

Before the end of the show, ESPN NBA Today host Malika Andrews called in the program and wanted to address Smith’s comments.

“Stephen A., with all do respect, this is not about pointing the finger. Stop,” Andrews said. “The fact that we are sitting here debating whether somebody else should have been suspended or not, we are not here, Stephen A., to further blame women.”

Smith would replay saying that his intention was not blame anyone outside of the Celtics coach.

“First of all, let me be very clear, I don’t appreciate where you’re going with that, I’m not blaming anybody but Ime Udoka,” Smith stated. “The fact of the matter is, he deserves to be fired if they were going to fire him. If you’re not going to fire him, then don’t fire him. My issue is all of this being publicized.”

Andrews tried to jump back in for further commentary but Smith stopped that and noted he didn’t appreciate being interrupted on “my show”.

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

Andrews did thank Smith for clarifying his stance at the end of the segment. ESPN has removed access to the video from its YouTube channel by making it private.

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Rich Eisen on Tom Brady Joining FOX: ‘I Gotta See It to Believe It’

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow.”

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Is 2023 the year we see Tom Brady in the broadcast booth for FOX? Rich Eisen isn’t so sure.

“I still gotta see it to believe it, I’ll be honest with you, man. I know it’s a great chunk of change and it’s a lot of money. I don’t know,” the NFL Network icon said on the most recent edition of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.

Tom Brady has taken his foot off the gas in 2022 in a more public way than fans are used to. He voluntarily missed eleven days of training camp and has announced that he will not be available to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesdays during the season.

Eisen says if Brady is looking for a less demanding career, broadcasting isn’t the best option.

“It is a lot of work. And I’m not saying Brady’s not up for it, but if he’s been grinding for 23, 24 years, it’s still a grind in its own way.”

FOX signed Brady to a ten-year deal reportedly worth $375 million to start after he retires. He will be in the network’s top broadcast booth and also serve as an ambassador for the network’s coverage of the NFL.

Eisen says there is a much better model for Brady’s media career in his old rival Peyton Manning.

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow,” Eisen said. “Peyton Manning could be making that much money in the booth himself, right? Instead, he’s got his own production company and he’s doing the games, but not all of them, only 10 of them. And he’s doing them from his basement and he’s got the rights to the games!”

He added that Tom Brady “write his own ticket like that” if he chose to do something similar to what Manning has done with Omaha Productions.

Brady has not had much to say about his deal with FOX since the news became public. In June, he told Dan Patrick that he knows his first season in the booth will come with a lot of growing pains.

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