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ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro Agrees to 3-Year Contract Extension

Pitaro is appearing at the 2022 BSM Summit, held at The Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City March 2-3.

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Jimmy Pitaro has signed a contract extension to remain as ESPN president. The New York Post‘s Andrew Marchand reported the news in his Monday “Sports Clicker” newsletter. (You can subscribe here.)

Pitaro’s new contract adds another three-and-a-half years to his current agreement. During his tenure, which began in March 2018, Pitaro’s biggest accomplishments may be smoothing out ESPN’s relationship with the NFL and negotiate a new TV rights deal that includes two playoff games and two Super Bowl broadcasts, in addition to continuing the Monday Night Football package and rights to highlights for the network’s studio programming including SportsCenter, NFL Live, Sunday NFL Countdown, and Monday Night Countdown.

Additionally, Pitaro has strengthened ESPN+ as networks like NBC and CBS have emphasized an increased focus on their streaming platforms. (Fox, curiously, hasn’t appeared to make streaming much of a priority, pointing to its Tubi service.) ESPN’s streaming service currently has 17.1 million subscribers, undoubtedly aided by ESPN+ being included in the Disney bundle with Disney+ and Hulu.

As Marchand points out, some of the challenges ahead for Pitaro include finding younger talent to feature, which ESPN has done successfully with NFL Live, overhauling the show with Laura Rutledge, Mina Kimes, Marcus Spears, and Dan Orlovsky. The network has also appeared to emphasize individual personalities like Stephen A. Smith (or even Scott Van Pelt) less. Will that continue or does ESPN have to find new faces and voices to highlight?

ESPN has also shown some creativity in adding special alternate broadcasts to its schedule, such as the baseball “Nerdcast” incorporating analytics and advanced metrics with Jason Benetti, Mike Petriello, and Eduardo Perez. Of course, the jewel of alternate broadcasts during the past year was the “ManningCast” featuring Peyton and Eli Manning with a rotating cast of guests during Monday Night Football.

During the upcoming Major League Baseball season, ESPN will add a “Kay-Rod” alternate telecast for eight Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts featuring Alex Rodriguez and Michael Kay in a set-up similar to the “ManningCast.” Will more of these alternate broadcasts be developed or will the network find that viewers’ appetites for such programming is limited?

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Perhaps one of those questions will be answered when Pitaro appears at the 2022 BSM Summit, held at The Anne Bernstein Theater in New York City March 2-3.

As Jason Barrett describes, he and Pitaro will have a 35-minute conversation on stage “discussing the state of the sports media industry, the opportunities and challenges facing operators in 2022 and beyond, the growth of sports betting, network radio, podcasts, subscriptions, social, and many other issues.” Tickets for the event can be purchased here.

Sports TV News

FOX Sued for Patent Infringement Over NFL Scheduling

“Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.”

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An analytics company is suing FOX over claims that the network developed a mapping tool using their patented technology to create a season slate of NFL games.

Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.

The lawsuit claims FOX used access to Recentive’s predictive analytics tools to develop a resource of their own that would create optimal schedules for its 1 and 4 p.m. NFLwindows.

The company is seeking a declaration that FOX infringed on two of its patents. Recentive is also suing for damages and wants an injunction keeping FOX from using Recentive tech and preventing the network from “selling, offering for sale, marketing or using any internal network and mapping analytics tool for the scheduling and regionalization of events covered by the patents.”

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Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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