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Dave Roberts Sings Praises Of ESPN TV Lineup

Brandon Contes

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Overseeing ESPN’s radio and TV lineup is a highly scrutinized job. For Dave Roberts, ESPN’s Senior Vice President of Production, the recipe for success features interesting topics, talent and diversity.

Speaking to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, Roberts discussed ESPN’s TV lineup, beginning with the success of Get Up. Mike Greenberg’s weekday morning TV show is the perfect example of needing to fine-tune content, while giving it time to grow.

Get Up has had quite a turnaround thanks to the leadership of Mike Greenberg and his team and also the cast of characters who are on that program,” Roberts said as he referred to the morning television show as a “juggernaut.”

“The No. 1 priority for what makes that program are interesting topics, breaking news coverage equal to those interesting topics and a mix of diverse voices,” Roberts added. “You will see up to six or seven different people on that program from all backgrounds — male, female, Black, white — throughout the week.”

Another show that had a recent rebound under Roberts’ watch is the 6pm edition of SportsCenter. Following a ratings dip during the SC6 era with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith which lasted from 2017-2018, the show returned to its roots to better meet the expectations viewers have for the SportsCenter brand. 

“I don’t want to be perceived as criticizing the people who were on the show prior to the change, because they both were very talented and brought a lot to the table. But our focus with this edition of SportsCenter is to fit those expectations that SportsCenter has, which is to cover the news, show the best and most compelling highlights of the day, put them in context and bring the best that we have in the area of storytelling,” Roberts told Front Office Sports.

One show that continues to perform well is First Take led by Stephen A. Smith. Even after losing Skip Bayless to FS1 in 2016, First Take hasn’t missed a beat with the addition of Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim, along with its move from ESPN2 to ESPN. 

First Take is just an interesting program to watch,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t shy away from topics that others might consider to be controversial. People like to watch and, frankly, people love to watch Steven A. whether they love him or hate him.”

As far as rumors of potentially reuniting Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, Roberts chose not to speculate on the pending free agent when asked by McCarthy.

Sports TV News

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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Sports TV News

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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Sports TV News

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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