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Ariel Helwani Announces Exit From ESPN

“During negotiations for a new deal, Helwani had the opportunity to see what other offers may exist for his services. He says he was excited by what he heard from other potential employers.”

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Ariel Helwani is leaving ESPN. The MMA reporter shared the news on social media, confirming that his last day with the network will be June 15.

Helwani had been locked in contentious negotiations with ESPN according to an April report from Andrew Marchand of the New York Post. He announced in a video post on Instagram that he never expected to leave ESPN after three years, but during the past six months he was excited by what he heard from other potential employers.

Helwani had nothing but good things to say about the network. He called his time at ESPN “amazing” and the chance to work there “a dream come true.” He also praised Jimmy Pitaro and other members of ESPN’s management for having his back, something that he claims wasn’t provided at other places of employment.

While he is best known for the work he has done around the UFC and other MMA promotions, Helwani mentioned that covering the NBA Summer League was one of the stand out moments of his time at ESPN. He thanked Tim Corrigan for giving him the chance to work three games alongside Jorge Sedano and Vince Carter.

“I have a lot of respect for what ESPN stands for and I have a lot of respect for the people there. I’m truly grateful for what they gave me and for the opportunities that they gave me,” Helwani said, stressing that the decision to leave ESPN is his and there is no bad blood between him and the network.

Outkick’s Bobby Burack reports that many in the industry believe that Helwani can ride the wave of growth in MMA and the UFC and maximize his value outside of a traditional media deal.

Andrew Marchand reports that Helwani has signed one deal with Action Network. The deal will be non-exclusive. That means that Helwani can create content for other companies as well.

https://twitter.com/AndrewMarchand/status/1401609623442972678?s=20

One interesting thing to note is that Helwani did not mention ESPN’s contract with the UFC. Helwani and UFC leader Dana White have a very contentious relationship. Helwani has been outspoken in the past about White meddling in his career and making it difficult to do his job. White even tried to revoke Helwani’s press credentials in the past, installing a lifetime ban before reversing his decision a few days later.

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NFL Considers Ending Pro Bowl Amidst Low Ratings

“Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.”

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The NFL is obsessed with TV ratings. It isn’t a surprise that the league may not be willing to tolerate the Pro Bowl underperforming for much longer. 

In 2022, the NFL’s all-star game produced it’s lowest ratings in 16 years. Fewer that 7 million people tuned in to watch the game across ABC, ESPN and DisneyXD. 

“The (Pro Bowl) game doesn’t work,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday after the owners’ meeting in Atlanta. “We need to find another way to celebrate the players.”

There are two proposed alternatives that have been reported. The Washington Post says the league is considering launching a seven-on-seven competition. It would not include tackling or full clocks. The other report comes from Ian Rapport of the NFL Network. He says the league is considering hosting a series of skills competitions over the course of what would be branded an all-star week. The NFL has partnered with DirecTV in the past to present similar events during Super Bowl Week. 

No details have emerged or final decisions made. Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports the future of the Pro Bowl was discussed on Tuesday during the owners’ meetings in Atlanta.

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Former Hulu Exec Michael Schneider Hired To Run Bally Sports+

“Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.”

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Sinclair Broadcast Group and Diamond Sports Group have tapped Michael Schneider as the chief operating officer and general manager of Bally Sports+ when it launches this year.

Schneider will oversee the direct-to-consumer platform that will also be the hub for Bally Sports live programming.

Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.

“Throughout his career, Michael has successfully launched and developed DTC streaming and service platforms and created immersive engagement experiences,” said Sinclair COO and president of broadcast Rob Weisbord. “He is a terrific addition to the team as we build out the Bally Sports+ offering, its exclusive content and passionate fan community.”

Even before Hulu, Schneider had a hand in streaming. He was a founding member of the PlayStation Vue launch team.

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Sports TV News

Marquee Sports Network Weighs Streaming Options Outside of Bally Sports+

“Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.”

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As Sinclair Broadcast Group prepares to launch Bally Sports+, its direct-to-consumer platform that will be home to Bally Sports live events, the Chicago Cubs are weighing their options for Marquee Sports Network, which the team co-owns with Sinclair.

Despite being under the Sinclair umbrella, Marquee is its own free-standing RSN from the rest of the Bally Sports networks across the country.

Marquee is readily available on a number of cable providers, but the only thing that’s really missing is its own standalone streaming platform for games. Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.

“We’re always interested in being on the cutting edge with the ultimate deliverable to our consumer,” McCarthy said. “But there isn’t any contractual clock ticking to make us feel that way. It’s how we’ve approached things from the beginning. Between our two ownership groups, there’s a lot of aggression to get it right. And I think you’ll see something along those lines shortly.”

The TV ratings will always be of top interest for MLB, especially regional ratings. But as the league has worked to embrace more streaming options for games, striking deals with Apple and Peacock for rights this season, it’s all about providing what the fans and viewers want.

“We now have the ability to do so much more, to properly tell the story of a 162-game season,” said Crane Kenney, Chicago Cubs president of business operations. Kenney was instrumental in the launch of Marquee. “We love baseball, we love the game, and we love the opportunity we have to share it with our fans in really deep ways.”

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