Whenever Stephen A. Smith is on another podcast or you see him making a guest appearance somewhere, he knows how much of an influence that he is because of who he is and who he represents.
Smith was a guest on the most recent episode of The Pivot Podcast with Channing Crowder, Fred Taylor, and Ryan Clark and told the trio that what makes him one of the most, if not the most influential person in sports media is the trust that ESPN shows in him.
“The biggest thing that makes me influential is the trust that they have in me. When I’m on a podcast or a news network, they don’t worry about me the way they would worry about other folks because they know I understand that I get the big picture,” said Smith.
“I am constantly aware of the fact that I don’t just represent me, I represent ESPN. As a result, I have to take into account what they think and what they feel… They appreciate that because I’m not throwing them into the bowl with me.”
Whenever Smith makes a point during a debate, he is very confident in what he says and it does not matter to him what any fan or player thinks.
“I’m incredibly confident in what I say. Meaning that I pride myself in being a human being,” he said. “I know I’m not trying to get personal and I know I’m just doing my job. I don’t worry about fans. Hell with that. You watch me for a reason. It ain’t the other way around. My attitude is this is my job and it’s what the hell I’m going to do.”
Sometimes, Smith can be hard on athletes for some of the things that they do. However, he says he is trying to protect those athletes from people who try to change their character off of one mistake.
“What I mean by that is I don’t try to protect players from being held accountable for what they do. I try to protect players from being character-assassinated as to who they are,” said Smith. “We have all made mistakes. What I’m not going to do as a black man in a position of influence is allow folks to look at another black athlete… I’m never going to allow somebody to look at y’all and say this is who you are because of something you did.
“For me to get in that position and forget that inherent responsibility that I believe I am supposed to have to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. To provide perspective is very, very important to me. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything. What it means is I try to articulate where you are coming from so people can understand that and judge it according to that.”
Even though Smith can show a variety of different moods away from the camera, he knows that when he’s on television, it’s about making sure that the audience is tuning in and stops flipping the channels because they want to hear him.
“I’m a multitude of things. I can be mellow, I can be loud, I can be bombastic or demonstrative, I can be quiet, I can be pissed off and mean as hell,” Smith said. “I can be very jovial and fun-loving. It all depends on what the moment calls for. None of us are truly, truly one-dimensional.”
“What I would tell you about me on television is this. I believe this in my soul. I am a winner, bro. I am not trying to lose. In television, it is about ratings and revenue. My whole position is who do you want to watch when you flip the channels?” he continued.
“When you are flipping through the channels, who are you going to stop and say let me see what this person has to say? In my mind, it is always me because I’m trying to show you that I am passionate and enthused about what we are talking about. I can’t do that if I’m mellow chilling in my house. I am projecting and asking the audience to stop what they are doing to watch me.”
Even though the show First Take was on the rise when Smith was debating Skip Bayless, he told the trio that whenever people would talk about the show to him years ago, he always gave credit to Bayless because in his mind, it was his show. Once Bayless left, it became Smith’s show in his eyes, as talented as Max Kellerman is:
“The moment Skip was gone, it was mine just like when I was there, it was Skip’s,” Smith said. “Once 2016 came, those four years that we were together, go back and read my clips. I don’t give a damn how much my star supposedly was rising. I always made it clear it was Skip’s show because he brought me there. He knew the formula for which the show would work, I followed his lead and I became what I am for First Take because of him.
“The same applies to anybody that comes to First Take now because just like he set the stage for me, I am setting the show for everybody.”
Former Hulu Exec Michael Schneider Hired To Run Bally Sports+
“Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.”
Schneider will oversee the direct-to-consumer platform that will also be the hub for Bally Sports live programming.
Schneider previously was VP of brand and content marketing at Hulu, where he had involvement in various marketing efforts for Hulu + Live TV.
“Throughout his career, Michael has successfully launched and developed DTC streaming and service platforms and created immersive engagement experiences,” said Sinclair COO and president of broadcast Rob Weisbord. “He is a terrific addition to the team as we build out the Bally Sports+ offering, its exclusive content and passionate fan community.”
Even before Hulu, Schneider had a hand in streaming. He was a founding member of the PlayStation Vue launch team.
Marquee Sports Network Weighs Streaming Options Outside of Bally Sports+
“Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.”
As Sinclair Broadcast Group prepares to launch Bally Sports+, its direct-to-consumer platform that will be home to Bally Sports live events, the Chicago Cubs are weighing their options for Marquee Sports Network, which the team co-owns with Sinclair.
Despite being under the Sinclair umbrella, Marquee is its own free-standing RSN from the rest of the Bally Sports networks across the country.
Marquee is readily available on a number of cable providers, but the only thing that’s really missing is its own standalone streaming platform for games. Marquee GM Mike McCarthy said to Sports Business Journal there’s no rush, but the network is hopeful they can have something in time for the 2023 season.
“We’re always interested in being on the cutting edge with the ultimate deliverable to our consumer,” McCarthy said. “But there isn’t any contractual clock ticking to make us feel that way. It’s how we’ve approached things from the beginning. Between our two ownership groups, there’s a lot of aggression to get it right. And I think you’ll see something along those lines shortly.”
The TV ratings will always be of top interest for MLB, especially regional ratings. But as the league has worked to embrace more streaming options for games, striking deals with Apple and Peacock for rights this season, it’s all about providing what the fans and viewers want.
“We now have the ability to do so much more, to properly tell the story of a 162-game season,” said Crane Kenney, Chicago Cubs president of business operations. Kenney was instrumental in the launch of Marquee. “We love baseball, we love the game, and we love the opportunity we have to share it with our fans in really deep ways.”
Laura Rutledge Celebrates Chemistry Of NFL Live
“It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”
Laura Rutledge is very happy with where NFL Live is as the current lineup gets set to enter its third season together. She told The Big Lead that there is genuine chemistry between herself, Marcus Spears, Mina Kimes, and Dan Orlovsky and that is why she doesn’t feel the need to emulate any of sports television’s many debate shows.
“You don’t want to see people yelling at each other all the time and I’m really proud of the chemistry that we have struck and just letting that breathe on air and having so much fun. It is truly the absolute joy of my life to get their opinions and to sit with them every single day and hear what they have to say.”
The 2022 NFL season will have a very different feel for ESPN. The addition of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for Monday Night Football adds new expectations to the network.
Rutledge said that the attention on the network means that she and her colleagues have to raise their respective games, but that shouldn’t be hard. There is always material to work with in this league.
“We’ve seen this offseason, we saw the previous offseason, how the NFL news cycle never stops. It’s funny because the news cycle becomes such a big piece of the story, but we’re like, we can’t wait for the games,” she said.