On October 20, Jeff Van Gundy will be back in the booth with Mike Breen and Mark Jackson for another NBA season at ESPN. Van Gundy has been one of the lead analysts at ESPN since 2007 after being a head coach in the NBA from 1996-2007 with the New York Knicks and Houston Rockets.
Van Gundy was a guest on the most recent episode of the Sports Media With Richard Deitsch Podcast and he was asked by Deitsch why he feels he has lasted as long as he has in the broadcasting business. Van Gundy pointed to Tim Corrigan (senior coordinating producer for ESPN).
“It comes back to the people you work for. Upper management has changed a lot over time in my time at ESPN. The direct bosses have changed a lot. Tim Corrigan has been my boss ever since I’ve been there. His trust in what Mike, Mark, and I are doing has been appreciated. That doesn’t mean he never comes back at me and goes that was stupid or you can’t stay that. I like it. He’s both a friend and a boss and that’s a hard line to walk.”
As Jeff Van Gundy has done more games over the last 10+ years, he has tried to be more considerate of criticizing officials when he is on the air because he isn’t trying to be controversial on purpose.
“I think for a while when I first started maybe from my coaching background, whatever I saw from them, I would never let it go. Some in the NBA would say I need to do it a lot more. I was always astounded how personal people take it when you talk about officiating, but playing, they expect you to critique what’s going on and coaching moves.”
As an analyst, the most important thing Jeff Van Gundy tries to do is call the action how he sees it. When he does prep for upcoming broadcasts, he told Deitsch that he doesn’t try to focus on specific stats. Instead, he keeps his prep simple and looks for trends that stand out.
“I don’t really do a whole lot other than watch. I just like to watch. Like to watch games. I have a few friends I talk to in the NBA, but it’s not like I’m sitting there calling a lot of people….I would say it’s as simple as I think this is where a color guy has it really good. I’m not a stats guy. I don’t throw out a lot of stats. You have to find what you feel is best broadcasting-wise. I know the stats on the teams, but it’s not like I’m ever going to say this guy’s shooting 44% from three unless it’s something that stands out.”
Van Gundy’s first regular season game with fellow color-commentator Mark Jackson, play-by-play man Mike Breen, and sideline reporter Lisa Salters for the 2021-22 season will be on October 20 when the Knicks host the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden (7:30 pm ET, ESPN).
ESPN Adds Weeknight Wild Card Round Game
The inaugural Monday night NFL Wild Card game will be played on January 17th, 2022 as the finale of wild card weekend.
There were reports in September that the NFL was considering having a Wild Card Weekend game played on Monday Night. That is now in full effect, as The Walt Disney Company and the NFL have reached a five year rights agreement for ESPN to present the Monday night Wild Card game beginning with the 2021 season and continuing through the 2025 season.
The inaugural Monday night NFL Wild Card game will be played on January 17th, 2022 as the finale of wild card weekend. This will be the first weekday primetime NFL playoff game.
ESPN will have Megacast coverage of the game, offering both the traditional coverage from the Monday Night Football crew, as well as the Manningcast featuring Peyton and Eli Manning on ESPN2.
This is a smart move for both sides. ESPN gets playoff football. The NFL is replacing the Saturday afternoon Wild Card game which has notably had severely low ratings in the past. Last year’s Wild Card game between the Bills and Colts was the least watched Wild Card game since 2003.
The 2021 season’s Wild Card game will be ESPN’s eighth NFL playoff game, having begun airing an annual Wild Card game following the 2014 regular season. ESPN will also add an NFL Divisional round game to its postseason slate, while continuing to air its existing Wild Card game, beginning in 2023.
Gary Bettman Takes Shot At ESPN’s Past Relationship With NHL
”I’ve said a number of times that if ESPN is half as good at promoting us as they were at freezing us out when they didn’t have our rights, this is going to be great.”
Prior to Tuesday night’s doubleheader to kick off the NHL season on ESPN, the network had not aired an NHL hockey game since 2004. It appears that the longtime commissioner of the NHL Gary Bettman may hold some resentment on how the partnership ended.
When talking about the new deals in place with ESPN and Turner for the NHL. Bettman had some pretty interesting things to say about ESPN during an appearance at Sports Business Journal’s World Congress of Sports.
”I think in terms of promotion and platforms, being back on ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, will bring us back to more of a traditional sports fan,” said Bettman about the move. “Hockey fans got separated from ESPN because there wasn’t as much coverage.”
That was diplomacy compared to his true shot at the network.
“With my tongue in my cheek, I’ve said a number of times that if ESPN is half as good at promoting us as they were at freezing us out when they didn’t have our rights, this is going to be great.”
Many prominent names in sports media took to Twitter to respond to this tweet. While no one missed the fact that his comment was made in jest, many pointed out that he isn’t wrong about how ESPN treated the NHL for the last 17 years.
So far it seems that ESPN has been heavily promoting the comeback of the NHL to the network, adding numerous different shows to the network for exclusive NHL content as well as bringing back prominent names to NHL coverage on ESPN for content such as Chris Berman.
Monday Night Football Audience Tops 11 Million Again
Monday Night Football has been doing significantly well so far this season, showing a 20% increase in viewership season-to-date from both the 2019 and the 2020 seasons.
The ratings for the Week 5 Monday Night Football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens are out, and it was another huge success. The ESPN broadcast of the game generated an audience of 11,375,000. This is an increase from last year’s Week 5 game and the second-highest Week 5 viewership in the last six years.
Monday Night Football has been doing well so far this season, showing a 20% increase in viewership season-to-date from both the 2019 and the 2020 seasons. It has also been up looking at the year-over-year for four out of the five weeks this season.
So what is working so well that could result in the spike in viewership? Maybe it is the improvement of the broadcast crew consisting of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick. It could also be the change of pace that the Manningcast brought to the network earlier this season. Whatever it may be, ESPN has to be pleased by the Monday Night Football ratings so far this year.
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