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Rachel Nichols Off NBA Programming At ESPN

“Nichols’ show The Jump is ending in the next few weeks, and she is off the air with more than a year left on her ESPN contract.”

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Courtesy: ESPN

The final shoe has dropped in the Rachel Nichols saga at ESPN. Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand reports that Nichols is off all NBA programming effective immediately.

It’s not known how much of a factor Nichols’ leaked conversation about Maria Taylor landing the NBA Countdown hosting gig played into the decision. Regardless, Nichols’ show The Jump is ending in the next few weeks, and she is off the air with more than a year left on her ESPN contract.

“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned,” ESPN Senior VP/Production David Roberts said in a statement to SBJ. “Rachel is an excellent reporter, host, and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content.”

Roberts started overseeing NBA production at ESPN a couple of weeks ago, making this his first big shakeup with more on the way. Sources told SBJ to expect quite a few changes on the studio side of programming. The Jump will carry out its final episodes with guest hosts.

Nichols faced controversy earlier this summer for claiming ESPN chose Maria Taylor as NBA Countdown host because of her race in a conversation with sports PR exec Adam Mendelsohn. Those comments were recorded through Nichols studio set up in her Orlando bubble hotel room and spread to different ears throughout the company.

The Jump has been a success at ESPN since launching in early-2016. Viewers have praised Nichols for making the show her own. The Sports Emmys nominated her for Best Host this year. All while the show as a whole was nominated for an award at the ceremony a year prior.

None of that made Roberts flinch in his decision as the network inserts another shakeup to their television lineup. Ourand reports that ESPN will unveil a new daily NBA show prior to next season, but no firm details have surfaced. They don’t have much time to reel in all the pieces as the 2021 NBA season starts in less than two months.

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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.”

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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.

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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?”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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