The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network is making significant programming and personnel changes to Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals broadcasts ahead of the 2021 MLB season, according to The Athletic.
There’s a long list of Orioles announcers who won’t retain their roles with the club this season, including Gary Thorne and Jim Hunter. Thorne did not participate in the Orioles 2020 season which was shortened by COVID-19, but an unresolved contract dispute was a contributing factor. Last summer, it was reported Thorne and the Orioles were working toward a contract resolution for the 72-year-old play-by-play voice to return for the 2021 season, but that’s no longer the case.
Hunter has been with the Orioles since 1997, where he’s worked as a play-by-play voice for both radio and TV, later contributing to the team’s pre and postgame coverage. Hunter announced on Twitter that he was parting with the Orioles.
“I was informed this week by [the Orioles] my contract will not be renewed for 2021 ending my career w/the ball club,” Hunter tweeted last Friday. “It’s disappointing to have my tenure come to an end especially since it was not my decision. For 24 years I gave my heart & soul to the broadcasts & now it’s over.”
Other Orioles broadcasters who reportedly won’t be returning to MASN during the 2021 season include Mike Bordick, Dave Johnson, Tom Davis and Rick Dempsey.
According to The Athletic, MASN recently informed both teams that the network would no longer provide pre and postgame coverage. Instead, it’s up to each team to independently fund their pre and postgame shows if they would like the programming to continue. As The Athletic notes, costs for talent, truck rentals, production, and rights fees can easily equate to totals in the millions.
MASN is uniquely co-owned by both the Orioles and Nationals, but Baltimore is the majority stakeholder. Baltimore owns 77 percent of the network with the Nationals holding just 23 percent. The Orioles received a majority share of the network in 2005, reaching the agreement after losing the Washington TV market to the Nationals who relocated from Montreal.
But it’s been a point of contention recently, with the Nationals arguing MASN’s current structure heavily favors the Orioles and both sides engaged in legal disputes over rights fees. In 2019, Major League Baseball’s arbitrator decided the Orioles owed $100 million to the Nationals based on fair market value from 2012-2016, but Baltimore has continued to appeal the ruling.
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.