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Variety Asks TNT, ESPN Executives To Detail Their NHL Plans

“Look for the Turner broadcast and studio shows to adopt the tried and true methods from Inside the NBA.”

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Courtesy: NHL, ESPN, Turner

TNT and ESPN are taking over NHL rights starting this season, and the two sides are ready to put their stamp on NHL coverage — while hopefully attracting new fans along the way.

Variety interviewed multiple executives from Turner and ESPN to see how each affiliate plans to attack its new properties. The Worldwide Leader is using the strength of its Monday Night Football property to expose its football audience to the new slate of games that starts airing the very next night.

“We haven’t had hockey in close to 20 years,” said Mark Gross, ESPN senior vice president of production and remote events, in an interview with Variety. “When you lose a property, and then you get it back? That doesn’t happen every day.”

Spending 16 years with one main broadcast partner is a rarity in today’s spliced media environment. Now, the NHL is banking on ESPN and TNT after ending its time with NBC. Those two sides are trying to return the favor with innovative plans for the property.

“It’s been quite a few years since we’ve had a rights package with this much significance for us to sink our teeth into,” said Tara August, senior vice president of talent relations and special projects for Turner Sports.

Loyalty alone isn’t driving this commitment; the Benjamins are the biggest factor in this newfound push for hockey. Turner is paying around $200 million per year for its smaller package, while ESPN is paying roughly $400 million. For context, NBC paid the league $200 million for lone control of the rights.

One of the biggest wrinkles coming to Turner and ESPN broadcasts are jersey chips. “You can track the players along with the puck and experiment with data,” says Craig Barry, Turner Sports’ chief content officer.

Look for the Turner broadcast and studio shows to adopt the tried and true methods from Inside the NBA

“We really just want to be genuine. That’s what resonates with fans. Whenever they see any of our coverage, our games, and our studio announcers, they are really taking just like you talk at home,” August said. “It’s conversational. It’s cool. They don’t mind if they make fun of themselves or one another.”

While Gross discussed some details on a format for The Point which will “not necessarily be hard-core X-O hockey,” he told Variety. “It’s less about scores and more about showcasing the players, showcasing the league, showcasing the different storylines that are there.”

John Buccigross is hosting the new ESPN studio show dedicated to all things NHL.

ESPN and TNT have plenty of innovations ready to try out when a new era of the NHL on TV begins next week.

Sports TV News

Bob Iger Reportedly Wants To Buy Phoenix Suns

“Forbes currently values the Suns at $1.8 billion.”

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ABC/Disney

Should the NBA’s Phoenix Suns come up for sale, it appears there’s at least one person potentially interested in buying them. That is former Disney CEO Bob Iger.

The team’s current majority owner, Robert Sarver, is being investigated by the league based on a detailed ESPN report that alleges Sarver created a toxic working environment within the franchise. The report cites incidents where Sarver exhibited racist or misogynistic behavior.

The league investigation is being spearheaded by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Like former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who was eventually banned for life from the league after video showing him using racist language surfaced, Sarver could be forced to sell his ownership stake.

Forbes currently values the Suns at $1.8 billion.

Media reports say what makes Iger an appealing candidate is his connection to the commissioner and the commissioner’s office while with Disney, which owns ESPN and ABC. Both television brands are NBA broadcast rights holders.

The franchise’s current co-owners can turn down any potential buyer, and the league does have a formal sale process. So, it’s likely the team would sell for north of $2 billion if it hit the open market. That would likely require Iger to bring in ownership partners to make the sale happen.

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Colin Cowherd Lets Listeners Decide If He Ever Talks About Baker Mayfield Again

“I am no longer captivated by Baker Mayfield topics.”

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Colin Cowherd has been a critic of Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield ever since he was drafted in 2018, but Cowherd may be out of the Baker Mayfield business going forward.

The Fox Sports host put up a video on Twitter about his feelings on Mayfield, and gave his fans of the show a rare opportunity to control some content that he talks about on the show.

“I was watching Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson play on Sunday Night, and Lamar had four picks, and still won, I thought he was fascinating. Didn’t play well but I thought he was fascinating, and I thought, Baker is easily the second most interesting quarterback in this game,” said Cowherd. “He is 28-28 as a starter, I was clearly right about the argument, I am no longer captivated by Baker Mayfield topics.”

That led to Cowherd putting up a Twitter poll and leaving the decision about how to proceed in the listeners’ hands.

“People ask me why I still talk about Baker, and I thought you know what, you are right. That is why I am going to let you decide whether or not I talk about Baker ever again. At 8:30 Pacific I am putting up a poll on Twitter which will decide whether or not I talk about Baker going forward.”

Cowherd then said that if the poll says that he should stop talking about Mayfield, that he will be done regardless of the circumstances.

“If he goes on a 5 game win streak, he gets to the playoffs, the AFC Championship, the Super Bowl, I won’t be talking about him, you can’t have it both ways.”

The results of the poll showed that the fans no longer wanted Cowherd to talk about Mayfield, a result which seemed to be the obvious choice considering how often his name comes out of Cowherds mouth.

It remains to be seen whether or not Cowherd will honor this going forward. If the Browns were to make the Super Bowl I find it extremely hard to believe that it won’t be a topic on his show, but it will be good to hear no repetitive Baker Mayfield talk for at least a little while from him.

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Sports TV News

An NBA Manningcast With JJ Reddick & Draymond Green?

“I would be honored to sit in a room with a GOAT like yourself and talk basketball.”

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With the overwhelming success that the Manningcast has been for Monday Night Football, other leagues and networks are looking to replicate ESPN’s and the Manning Brothers’ formula.

There may be some willing hosts for an NBA version of the show in JJ Redick and Draymond Green. Redick joined Green’s new podcast The Draymond Green Show on The Volume to talk about a potential partnership between the two in the future.

“I know you got a lot of basketball left in you, but a lot of people have said to me you and Draymond need to do a version of the Manning brothers Monday Night Football when Draymond is retired. Just keep that in mind when you retire in 5 or 6 years,” said Redick to Green.

Before answering, Draymond Green noted that he had recently been a guest on the Manningcast. Not only did he like the experience, he said it is now his favorite way to watch Monday Night Football.

Green liked the idea of teaming with Redick. He said that the duo play very different styles of basketball. That would give the listeners two very different perspectives on the game.

“I would be honored to sit in a room with a GOAT like yourself and talk basketball,” Green added. Redick ended the conversation about a potential alternate NBA feed by saying “We’ll make it happen.”

This would not be something new for the NBA to do. They are already trying out the idea of an alternate cast of NBA broadcasts with Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson on NBA League Pass.

As Redick stated, it may be a while until we see Draymond Green retire from his playing career in the NBA, but when he does I am sure that he will be a hot commodity in the sports media world.

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