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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.

Sports TV News

Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX

“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”

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FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.

A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.

The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.

Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.

That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.

Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.

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FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”

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The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.

Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.

Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.

“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”

Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.

“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.

FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.

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Sports TV News

NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC

“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”

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ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.

ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.

This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.

Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.

“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”

ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.

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