There is no handbook for sports media brands and companies when navigating a global pandemic. For that, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro and Disney CEO Bob Chapek are proud of the way they handled the unprecedented challenges that popped up in 2020.
“No one could have anticipated the challenges we faced in 2020,” Pitaro said during ESPN’s annual town hall event, which was held virtually Thursday morning for ESPN employees nationwide. “And it’s times like these where people are often judged. And I promise you that history will show that the people of ESPN delivered . . . and did so with grace and integrity.”
According to ESPNFrontRow.com, Disney CEO Bob Chapek echoed Pitaro’s sentiment, believing ESPN’s parent company “demonstrated unbelievable resourcefulness and creativity.” Chapek highlighted the NBA Bubble as an example, which took a tremendous amount of planning by the league, Disney and ESPN to orchestrate as they crowned a season champion.
While Disney and ESPN both exemplified problem-solving skills throughout the year, they weren’t immune to the negative financial impacts of COVID-19, which led to many employee cuts. The day before Thanksgiving, Disney announced 32,000 workers would be laid off during the first half of 2021.
ESPN similarly had their largest round of layoffs ever late last year, cutting 300 jobs and leaving another 200 open positions unfilled. The cuts eliminated 500 jobs in total from a company that has 4,000 employees working out of Bristol and 6,000 worldwide.
Despite those unfortunate realities, both Pitaro and Chapek are optimistic for the futures of ESPN and Disney.
“Likewise, here at ESPN, and for so many reasons, I feel optimistic about the year ahead,” Pitaro said. “At the same time, I’m also realistic about the business challenges we face. The changes we’ve seen over the last few months have, at times, felt sudden and difficult, but I can assure you this strategic business shift is something we’ve been building towards for years, at Disney and at ESPN.”
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.
NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC
“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”
ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.
ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.
This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.
Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.
“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”
ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.