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John Buccigross, Chris Fowler Lead Broadcasts of 2021 NHL Draft

ESPN has simulcasted TSN draft coverage in the past.

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: NHL

It’s almost time for the Kraken to awaken. The NHL announced their broadcast plans for the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and regular NHL Draft this week. 

The expansion draft starts off the festivities on Wednesday, July 21, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2 in the U.S. and Sportsnet and SN NOW in Canada. The event is taking place live in Seattle, home of the Kraken, the NHL’s latest expansion team rounding out the league with 32 franchises. 

The Kraken has an opportunity to add existing players in the league to their squad to make sure they have enough talent to compete in their expansion season. The Vegas Golden Knights leave quite the lofty standard on that front, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals in their inaugural season. They fell to the Washington Capitals in five games.

ESPN is sending some of their top talents to bolster the event, with Chris Fowler hosting alongside former NHL player Dominic Moore and Kevin Weekes, one of the company’s most recent additions to their hockey coverage. Weekes provided commentary and analysis for NHL Network and Hockey Night in Canada. He’ll be reporting from various iconic Seattle locations.

Next up for ESPN is the complete NHL Draft, with John Buccigross hosting live coverage of the opening round on Friday, July 23 at 8 p.m. ET. He is joined by Sportsnet analysts Elliotte Friedman and Sam Cosentino. Weekes alongside NHL Network’s Jackie Redmond and ESPN’s Emily Kaplan are joining the coverage team to provide insight and analysis.

These broadcasts are a clear step forward for ESPN’s hockey coverage. In past years they have chosen to simulcast TSN coverage of the NHL Draft rather than devote their own talent and resources. ABC and ESPN are splitting the league’s broadcast duties with Turner over much of this decade. These events give the former a chance to drop the puck on a new era of domestic NHL coverage in style.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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