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ESPN Hires Marsha Cooke To Lead 30 For 30 Brand

“I’m thrilled to be joining this esteemed organization.”

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ESPN

ESPN has hired award-winning news and media veteran Marsha Cooke as vice president & executive producer for ESPN Films and 30 for 30.

In her new role, she will oversee the development, production, distribution, branding and strategy of all projects under the ESPN Films umbrella, including the 30 for 30 series. Cooke will be based in New York and reporting directly to Senior Vice President Brian Lockhart.

“ESPN creates groundbreaking stories for both sports fans and non-sports fans. Quite simply, it’s essential viewing and I’m thrilled to be joining this esteemed organization.” said Marsha Cook.

Cooke comes to ESPN from Vice Media Group where she is senior vice president of global news and special projects. During her time at Vice, Cooke developed and produced special news and entertainment projects across VMG digital and broadcast platforms, leading the company in pushing the limits of broadcast news formats and playing a key role in integrating VICE’s forward-thinking values with its award-winning content.

Cooke was instrumental in leading VICE News’ first-ever live coverage of the 2020 Iowa Brown and Black Forum, the nation’s oldest and only non-partisan presidential forum dedicated exclusively to addressing issues facing communities of color.

Prior to Cooke’s time at Vice, she spent 24 years at CBS where she was responsible for producing stories for various CBS News shows and she served as VP of news services.

“Marsha’s extensive production experience, creative mind, and global perspective make her a tremendous asset to our team,” said Lockhart. “As we prepare for a dramatic expansion of our storytelling scope, her strategic thinking and leadership will help guide this ambitious next phase of the 30 for 30 brand. We are delighted to welcome her to ESPN.”

Sports TV News

Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir Profiled On HBO’s ‘Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’

“Why would we ever try to be something that we’re not?”

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HBO Sports

The first Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel episode of 2022 airs on HBO Tuesday night (Jan. 25) and includes a segment on NBC figure skating analysts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.

As Soledad O’Brien says in her report, the broadcasting duo attracts more attention from figure skating fans these days than the competitors who take the ice during domestic and international competitions, including the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.

Lipinski and Weir are “the most dynamic and eccentric broadcasting duo in all of sports,” says O’Brien. They’ll certainly be a major draw for viewers during NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage, whether on broadcast, streaming, and social media.

Here’s a clip from the segment, titled “Skate Mates”:

Lipinski and Weir go viral for their daring, flamboyant outfits worn during NBC’s broadcasts (and surely in their everyday lives, as well). Hopefully, working remotely from Connecticut due to COVID-19 concerns doesn’t cramp that style.

But their analysis and commentary is insightful, sharp, and funny, almost always matching the moment seen on-ice. As with the most popular broadcasters in any sport, they’re fans of what they cover and that enthusiasm is palpable. Yet the two are also critical when necessary, as the Real Sports feature shows.

Also appearing in the feature is former NBC Olympics producer Jim Bell, who had the idea to team Weir and Lipinski up for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games after they were individually covering men’s and women’s figure skating, respectively.

“You’re welcome, America,” said Bell.

The broadcasters most associated with figure skating in Dick Button, Peggy Fleming, Scott Hamilton, and Sandra Bezic are revered among fans and athletes, and have been influential on Lipinski and Weir. Yet they also have to be themselves, which is what makes them feel authentic.

“Why would we ever try to be something that we’re not?” Weir said to O’Brien.

The latest episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel premieres Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO. The show is also available on-demand and HBO Max, in addition to repeat airings on HBO networks.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Reportedly Considering Al Michaels For ‘Monday Night Football’

It’s also entirely possible that Michaels’ representatives are floating this ESPN possibility to create some urgency with Amazon and get the best deal possible.

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Don’t pencil in Al Michaels for Amazon’s Thursday Night Football play-by-play opening quite yet.

The wide belief throughout the sports TV industry is that Michaels will indeed go to Amazon after his contract with NBC expires following Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13. But according to the New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand, ESPN is considering taking a run at the legendary broadcaster for its Monday Night Football broadcast.

Amazon and Michaels haven’t apparently reached an agreement yet. Though there are some who wonder if that might get finalized in the next couple of weeks so Michaels can give a proper goodbye at the close of the Super Bowl telecast.

But Amazon hasn’t settled on a potential broadcast partner for Michaels yet, and that choice could influence whether or not this becomes a done deal. Troy Aikman appears to be the favorite for the analyst spot and he’ll reportedly have to decide whether or not to call a game for Amazon and Fox each week or move over exclusively to Amazon.

Or, as Marchand speculates, perhaps he and Michaels will decide to go to ESPN if that becomes an option.

Does this mean that ESPN wants to blow up its current MNF team of Steve Levy, Brian Griese, and Louis Riddick? Marchand has reported that Griese’s contract is up, so the network is surely evaluating whether or not to bring the three-man crew back.

In the process, ESPN also apparently wants to see if there’s any interest from Michaels, though Marchand says no conversations have occurred.

Other options for a Michaels partner, whether it’s with Amazon or ESPN, could be Sean Payton (who is reportedly stepping down as New Orleans Saints coach), Pete Carroll, or Sean McVay. Carroll is still the Seattle Seahawks’ head coach, while McVay is coaching the Los Angeles Rams in Sunday’s NFC Championship game amid a possible Super Bowl run.

(Marchand contradicts reports that Fox would consider Payton as a replacement for Aikman on the network’s No. 1 NFL broadcast team with Joe Buck, reporting that the network is more interested in him as a studio analyst.)

It’s also entirely possible that Michaels’ representatives are floating this ESPN possibility to create some urgency with Amazon and get the best deal possible. Michaels returning to MNF, where he was the play-by-play voice for 20 years with ABC and ESPN, would be the sort of headline-grabbing move that ESPN has long sought for its showcase NFL telecast.

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Sports TV News

Troy Aikman Wasn’t Upset Over Not Calling 49ers-Cowboys Playoff Game

He went on to blame “the irresponsibility of media and social media.”

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During the NFL’s Wild Card playoff weekend, Fox’s Troy Aikman drew attention for appearing to be bitter that he and Joe Buck were calling Eagles-Buccaneers, rather than the marquee matchup of the opening round’s six games: 49ers at Cowboys.

“It’s gonna be a great game. I mean, a really good game,” said Aikman. “There’s a lot of people that’d like to be calling that game.”

Naturally, fans and sports media observers on social media interpreted Aikman’s remarks as annoyance that he and Buck weren’t calling a clash between two of the most accomplished franchises in the NFC.

It also highlighted the unusual circumstance of that game being televised on CBS, rather than Fox, an indication that the traditional set-up of NFC games on one network and AFC on the other no longer applied.

Appearing on The Ryen Russillo Podcast Monday, Aikman was asked about those remarks and the social media reaction to them.

“There were some that were trying to say I’d rather be doing the game than the one I was doing,” said Aikman. “That wasn’t the point at all. I’m thrilled to be doing any game. But Joe said, ‘Hey, that should be a great game.’ Yeah, an amazing game. I would’ve loved to call that game. But that didn’t mean I would love to be calling it over the game I was calling or that I was upset I wasn’t calling the game.”

Aikman added that he was confused that an NFC matchup was assigned to CBS by the NFL, rather than Fox, something that puzzled many viewers accustomed to how broadcasts were previously determined.

He went on to blame “the irresponsibility of media and social media” for those remarks being interpreted as being upset over the assignment.

Earlier in the segment, Russillo teased Aikman about forgetting that he briefly played with Craig Kupp, the father of Los Angeles Rams receiving sensation Cooper Kupp.

“I didn’t know that was Cooper’s dad and he wasn’t really with us all that long,” said Aikman. “I loved Craig when he was with us, then that was taken like I was taking a shot at him — which I was not.”

Russillo’s entire conversation with Aikman is worth listening to. The two also discuss Fox letting their broadcast pairings develop, rather than constantly tinker, which certainly seemed to be a criticism of ESPN’s frequent changes to its Monday Night Football crew.

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