On September 13, Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick will begin their second year of calling Monday Night Football games for ESPN. Their first year working as a trio brought a lot of challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic, calling games with no fans, and being a three-man booth calling games.
Griese and Levy were guests on the most recent episode of The Dave Pasch Podcast (Riddick will be on a separate episode). Pasch used to call college football games with Griese on ESPN. While there were many challenges to calling games last season, Levy mentioned that working with Griese previously on college football helped get past a lot of those obstacles.
“I was really fortunate that I wasn’t starting from scratch with Brian. That might have been too much. New producer, new director, three in the booth which can be tricky, has its own sort of issues. In a year where you are not laying out for crowd noise, that was the season to have three voices…We tried to make it as good as possible and we knew we were going to be judged by whatever was coming through the TV screen and the speakers. We were comfortable being judged by that”
Levy took the listener inside the booth. Last year required real adaptation on the part of the three broadcasters. Levy said there were fewer people next to him than ever before.
“We replaced people in the booth with monitors. In an effort to keep your six feet distance, no spotter standing next to us, there was a monitor, the spotter was in another booth. No statistician. Instead of the statistician, we had another monitor in front of us. You got to see the manicure of whoever was pointing to a place in the booth with their own camera. We didn’t know what to go off of.”
One of the highlights of last season for Levy was in Week 3 when ESPN had the Chiefs-Ravens game. Levy says one tweet from Patrick Mahomes’ mother helped the trio loosen up. It also helped break the ice between them.
After Riddick had called Patrick Mahomes “Pat Mahomes” for most of the night, Mahomes’s mother tweeted “his name is Patrick.”
“We’re in the break and it’s being revealed to us on social media that Patrick’s mom is saying all this stuff and I’m like guys, we’ve got to throw it up on the screen…Louis got hysterical. It loosened everybody up. It’s moments like that. I thought that was a really good jumping-off point for the three of us in the booth.”
Year 2 for Levy, Griese, and Riddick begins on Monday, September 13 when the Baltimore Ravens head to Las Vegas to take on the Raiders (8:15 PM ET).
ACC Network Set To Debut On Comcast Xfinity
“No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.”
There is always a mad scramble to work out carriage deals before a company launches a new cable network. Before the ACC Network debuted in 2019, Disney and ESPN secured deals with AT&T, Charter, DirecTV, DISH, Google Fiber and Verizon Fios. It was missing Comcast. That company’s Xfinity cable system is the largest in the country.
Xfinity subscribers will get to see the ACC Network for the first time in the coming weeks thanks to a deal between Disney and Comcast. As part of an agreement to renew the carriage of ESPN networks, the Disney branded channels, Freeform, the FX networks, and the National Geographic channels, Comcast has agreed to pick up the conference network and pair it with the SEC Network, which was already a part of Xfinity packages.
“We are very pleased to have reached this comprehensive agreement with Disney to continue providing Xfinity customers access to their content across our industry-leading platforms,” Rebecca Heap, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products & Propositions for Comcast Cable, said in a press release.
ACC Network will now be available in nearly 20 million more homes as a result of the deal. No official date has been set for the network’s debut on Xfinity.
“We’re very happy to extend our longstanding relationship with Comcast and continue to provide their Xfinity customers with Disney’s best-in-class programming,” Sean Breen, Executive Vice President of Platform Distribution at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, added. “In addition to our news, sports and general entertainment offerings, the launch of the ACC Network in the coming weeks, paired with the renewal of the SEC Network, will give Xfinity’s college sports fans long-awaited access to their favorite games.”
SEC Network Devotes 72 Hours To Georgia vs Bama
“On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon.”
Just like that, the college football regular season has come to a close, and the focus for FBS fans now shifts to the penultimate point of the overall season: conference championship weekend.
While all of the Power 5 conferences will be crowning champions, the eyes of the college football world will be on Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta as Georgia meets Alabama in the SEC title game. SEC Network recognizes that and has dedicated the 72 hours prior to kickoff, and immediately after the game also, to programming focused on the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide colliding for a berth in the 2021 College Football Playoff.
On Monday, ESPN announced its full slate of shows that will lead up to the game on Saturday afternoon. As expected, all the SEC Network staples will be live and on-location in Atlanta.
It all begins on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 1:30 p.m. with the SEC championship press conference hosted by Dari Nowkhah. Viewers will hear from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. Paul Finebaum will go on the air with The Paul Finebaum Show starting at 3 p.m.
Check out the full weekend schedule below:
Thursday, Dec. 2
- SEC Now: SEC Championship Coaches Press Conferences, 1:30 p.m.
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 3
- SEC This Morning, 8 a.m., on location at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC)
- The Paul Finebaum Show, 3 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Now: The Championship Coaches, 7 p.m., on location at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS)
- SEC Now, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
Saturday, Dec. 4
- Thinking Out of Pocket, noon, on location at the GWCC
- Marty & McGee, 1 p.m., on location at the GWCC
- SEC Nation, 2 p.m., on location at the GWCC and MBS
- SEC Football Final, 7:30 p.m., on location at MBS
In addition to the usual lineup of hosts for these shows, fans tuning in can expect special guest appearances as well from country music star Chris Young, to comedian Jeff Foxworthy and Tony Barnhart.
The 2021 SEC championship game will kick off at 4 p.m. on Saturday. You can watch the game on CBS.
ESPN In 8 Million Fewer Homes Than In 2020
“Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted.”
Some people in the media watch ESPN’s subscriber numbers like a hawk and report them without real context. In 2021, the people that cheer whenever there is news about ESPN having fewer subscribers than it used to will tell you that the network is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of the last fiscal year than it was in at the end of fiscal 2020. There is some context that is missing though.
Linear cable isn’t an a la cart service. So, if ESPN is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of 2021, then that means FOX News, Bravo, Nickelodeon and every other cable network is in 8 million fewer homes too. Also missing is the fact that while linear ESPN is losing subscribers, plenty of people are signing up for ESPN+ subscriptions.
At the end of fiscal 2021, ESPN Plus had more than 17 million subscribers. That is significant growth over fiscal 2020. ESPN Plus had 10.3 million subscribers at the end of the prior year.
ESPN’s traditional cable network and its sister channels net around $10 per subscriber for Disney each month through packages on cable, satellite and digital TV. At $6.99 per month, ESPN Plus is not a perfect replacement, but that is a direct payment to the company.
Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted. A drop in linear cable distribution will do nothing to end that speculation. We may be in for an extended session of number watching though. If cable subscriptions keep dropping off at such a high rate, it could motivate Disney to make a move.
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