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Michele Tafoya: ‘I Planned NBC Exit Before Covid’

“I know for a fact I’m going to miss them and certain little moments tremendously, but you know, this has been in my mind for long enough that I’m really ready.”

Derek Futterman

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News recently broke that Sunday Night Football on NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya planned to step away from the role following the conclusion of Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles.

It is a decision that had been in the making since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she confirmed to reporters in a conference call earlier this week. When COVID-19 struck the world though, her commitment to the on-air product and her colleagues kept her on the team for seemingly longer than expected.

“When COVID struck and we didn’t know what 2020 was going to be like, I just said, ‘Whatever we’ve got to do to get through this, I want to help,’” Tafoya explained.

Michele Tafoya and NBC chose not to make the decision public. Tafoya never wanted the story to be about her. She wanted it to be about the game on the field each week.

“This is hard for me. This is sad. These are my best friends in the world, this crew,” said Tafoya. “I know for a fact I’m going to miss them and certain little moments tremendously, but you know, this has been in my mind for long enough that I’m really ready.”

While her role has been to talk to players, coaches and personnel to obtain information or opinions about the primetime games on the sidelines, Tafoya recently appeared on The View, where she had the ability to express her own opinion on certain issues, including COVID-19 and the situation surrounding former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Shortly after this appearance, Tafoya did not appear on the air for three weeks. That lead to much speculation that she was being punished for something she had said. NBC said in a statement they were pre-planned bye weeks for her.

Tafoya declined to speak about her future opportunities. She did confirm that her new role, whatever it may be, will give her the opportunity to articulate her personal opinions. That opportunity, though, will not be in the realm of sports television.

“If I wanted to stay in sports television, I wouldn’t be leaving,” Michele Tafoya said.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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