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How Will Production Layoffs Effect ESPN’s On Air Talent?

“Deitsch says he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they are worried the days of ESPN hiring opinionists are mostly over. Miller isn’t buying it.”

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There aren’t a whole lot of people outside of the Walt Disney Company that know as much about ESPN as James Andrew Miller does. He is the author of Those Guys Have All the Fun, the book that documents the history of the network. On Monday, he was featured in Richard Deitch’s column for The Athletic talking about the recent layoffs at ESPN.

The duo discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it brought to broadcasting as the ultimate motivation for so many layoffs in Bristol behind the scenes. About midway through the conversation, Deitsch posed an interesting question: how will the layoffs of so many behind the scenes manifest itself with the on air staff?

Miller said he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they see the writing on the wall and their messages to agents are clear. Forget the raise, give me a longer deal.

“Apart from the Stephen A. (Smith) and probably less than two dozen individuals at ESPN who really have bargaining power and were able to extract significant increases during times like these, it’s not a great time,” he told Deitsch. “(Former CAA Sports head) Nick Khan picked a great era when (former ESPN president) John Skipper decided to be the George Steinbrenner for on-air personnel. There were big contracts and long contracts — and the economics of the time and the threat by FS1 justified it. But now that’s all gone.”

Deitsch says he has heard from a number of ESPN talents that they are worried the days of ESPN hiring opinionists are mostly over. Miller isn’t buying it. In fact, he believes the opposite may be true.

“I think sports talk is going to maybe have a whole new renaissance because at the end of the day it’s far less expensive,” he said. “How many sports is ESPN or other competitors really going to be able to afford now, or spend the money on in the future? If you decide that you’re not going to bid on X Sport, you’re still going to have to program that time on your network. So I think that you’re going to start to look at programming and content that is cheaper to produce.”

If that is indeed the case, it obviously would be good news for many in the industry. Miller’s thinking isn’t hard to understand. Yes, the broadcast business has changed because of networks being willing to use tools like Zoom. That means there are fewer production jobs, but he uses other television shows to prove that no one is seeing hosts go away.

“Look, one of the things that started to happen when the pandemic became part of the fabric of our lives is all of a sudden you started to see Jimmy Fallon was in his basement. There was Savannah Guthrie in her home upstairs. This is happening all across all different networks. There was a bunch of us who said this could be the toothpaste out of the tube.”

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Fox Officially Unveils NFL Broadcast Teams

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In what has been considered a formality for some time, Fox today officially unveiled Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, and Tom Rinaldi as their number one NFL broadcast team Monday. Burkhardt and Olsen were elevated to Fox’s top booth after the departure of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to ESPN’s Monday Night Football earlier this year.

There were some reports that Drew Brees could have been a possibility to join the network, but those discussions fell apart.

The network’s other teams include several familiar faces to football fans:

#2 team: Joe Davis, Daryl “Moose” Johnston, Pam Oliver
#3 team: Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth, Kristina Pink
#4 team: Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma, Shannon Spake
#5 team: Kevin Kugler, Mark Sanchez, Laura Okmin
#6 team: Chris Myers, Robert Smith, Jen Hale

Olsen’s jump to the number one team with Burkhardt is a formality until the retirement of Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady. The seven-time Super Bowl winner will ascend to Fox’s number one booth upon his retirement, whenever that may be.

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Ryan Clark, Mad Dog Get Into Heated Argument on ‘First Take’

“Mad Dog, stop screaming at me now, bro. For the last time, you’re gonna stop screaming at me,” Clark interrupted.

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Former Pittsburgh Steeler, and current ESPN NFL analyst Ryan Clark and recent Radio Hall of Fame inductee Chris “Mad Dog” Russo squared off on Monday’s edition of First Take, with a heated exchange taking place between the two.

After a discussion about Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas meandered into a discussion about whether Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp would be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame if he never played another game, Clark said about Hall of Fame voters “they must be voting like you (Russo) vote for the Heisman, where you just vote on whoever the hell you want based off the fact that they play quarterback”.

Russo quickly took exception to the perceived slight.

“Ryan, hold on now,” Russo said, in a louder manner than normal. “You said something, now I’m going to comment. I’ve been voting for the Heisman since before you were born.”

“Mad Dog, stop screaming at me now, bro. For the last time, you’re gonna stop screaming at me,” Clark interrupted.

“You said something that wasn’t right,” Russo said.

“Lower your voice,” the former Steeler interrupted again.

“I’ve been voting for the Heisman since before you were born,” Mad Dog reiterated, with a lower volume. “30 years.”

“I don’t care about that,” Clark rebutted.

“You’re saying I’m voting for the Heisman and saying I don’t deserve a vote. I’ve been voting for 30 years!”, Russo began to raise his voice again.

“I never said you don’t deserve a vote,” Clark replied before clarifying he disagrees with Russo’s sentiment about the college football award being only awarded to quarterbacks.

It’s not the first time Russo has clashed with First Take contributors. A discussion with J.J. Reddick went viral earlier this year after Reddick told Russo previous NBA players played with “plumbers and firefighters”.

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Todd Frazier Joining ESPN Little League World Series Booth

It will be a memorable summer for Fraizer at the LLWS because he will be inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. 

Ricky Keeler

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When people talk about 11-year MLB veteran Todd Frazier, some of the things that are usually mentioned on broadcasts usually is that he is from Toms River, New Jersey and that he played in the Little League World Series in 1998 (won the championship). Now, Frazier will have a bigger connection to the annual event in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

As first reported by Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati EnquirerFrazier will be in the TV booth (remotely) for ESPN for this year’s Little League World Series. He made his broadcast debut on Monday morning during one of the New England region semifinals between Maine and Massachusetts. 

Frazier told Nightengale that he wants to use this event to begin his second career in the broadcasting industry.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, especially for the Little League World Series since I’ve been a part of it. I know it and understand it really well. Kind of kickstart my second career here.” 

It will be a memorable summer for Fraizer at the LLWS because he will be inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence. 

The Little League World Series begins on Wednesday, August 17 and ends on Sunday, August 28. It will be broadcasted on ESPN and ABC.  

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