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John Tortorella Joins ESPN’s NHL Coverage

The former-Columbus Blue Jackets head coach was an analyst for TSN in 2008.

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Courtesy: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

“Torts” is on his way back to the analyst desk.

Longtime NHL head coach John Tortorella is trading his whistle for a microphone. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that ESPN has hired Tortorella as part of their new and improved NHL coverage team.

Tortorella was most recently the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, leading them to their first-ever playoff series victory over the Lightning in 2019. The 63-year-old parted ways with Columbus this past May after the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Tortorella has also coached the Canucks, Rangers, and Lightning, leading the bolts to their first Stanley Cup title in 2004. In 22 seasons of head coaching experience, Tortorella holds a 673-541-37-132 record. His 673 regular-season wins are tied for 12th in NHL history.

The fiery coach is well-known for his antics with reporters. He regularly complained about the media and held combative exchanges at press conferences. Now, he’s on the other side of the coin for the first time since 2008-09 when he was a hockey analyst for TSN.

ESPN surely hopes a dash of that bravado makes its way to the studio desk when they take on a large role in NHL coverage for the first time since they held the TV rights from 1992-2004.

Tortorella joins a growing list of hockey talent added by ESPN, featuring a mix of Americans and Canadians. Chris Chelios, Rick DiPietro, Ryan Callahan, Brian Boucher, Hilary Knight, and A.J. Mleczko, among others, make up the American contingent. While, the Canadian side includes Mark Messier, Ray Ferraro, Kevin Weekes, and Cassie Campbell-Pascall.

ESPN’s NHL coverage begins in full this fall as they dive headfirst into puck action. The NHL is broadcasting 25 national, exclusive regular season games per season on ABC or ESPN, along with 75 ESPN-produced national regular-season games streamed on ESPN+ and Hulu.

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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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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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Laura Rutledge Celebrates Chemistry Of NFL Live

“It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”

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Laura Rutledge is very happy with where NFL Live is as the current lineup gets set to enter its third season together. She told The Big Lead that there is genuine chemistry between herself, Marcus Spears, Mina Kimes, and Dan Orlovsky and that is why she doesn’t feel the need to emulate any of sports television’s many debate shows.

“You don’t want to see people yelling at each other all the time and I’m really proud of the chemistry that we have struck and just letting that breathe on air and having so much fun. It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”

The 2022 NFL season will have a very different feel for ESPN. The addition of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for Monday Night Football adds new expectations to the network.

Rutledge said that the attention on the network means that she and her colleagues have to raise their respective games, but that shouldn’t be hard. There is always material to work with in this league.

“We’ve seen this offseason, we saw the previous offseason, how the NFL news cycle never stops. It’s funny because the news cycle becomes such a big piece of the story, but we’re like, we can’t wait for the games,” she said.

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