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ESPN, ‘Sunday NFL Countdown’ Host Samantha Ponder Agree to New Contract

Ponder’s workload will expand beyond Sunday NFL Countdown, including contributing to NFL Draft coverage.

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ESPN is bringing back at least one piece of its Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show.

Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports in his weekly “Sports Clicker” newsletter (you can subscribe here) that Countdown host Samantha Ponder has been re-signed to a three-year contract. The deal, reportedly for a total of just over $3 million, will also include work beyond the Sunday pregame show, such as contributing to NFL Draft coverage.

In February, Marchand reported that analysts Randy Moss and Matt Hasselback were also facing expired contracts along with Ponder. (He also mentions Steve Young as up for renewal in his latest report.) This appeared to be an opportunity for ESPN to overhaul Sunday NFL Countdown, especially as weekday show NFL Live gets more attention and viewer engagement on social media.

But the network apparently sought to renew everyone’s contract and keep the band together. Now, ESPN is a quarter of the way there. (NFL Live and college football game analyst Dan Orlovsky is also facing a contract renewal.)

According to Marchand, negotiations between ESPN and Ponder were bumpy at times, which is surely to be expected. One of the issues may have been Ponder’s workload, which has been limited to Sundays since she took over hosting Countdown. But in looking at ESPN currently, many hosts and anchors are working across network programming.

As mentioned, Ponder will contribute to NFL Draft coverage, but as ESPN’s NFL footprint expands, perhaps she’ll be doing more in the months and years to come. Having a more prominent role in NFL coverage could be a factor in who hosts ABC/ESPN’s Super Bowl broadcast in 2027. Ponder, Suzy Kolber, and Laura Rutledge could be vying for that role. Other names Marchand mentions are Steve Levy, Scott Van Pelt, and Mike Greenberg.

If you start seeing more of Ponder across ESPN’s NFL programming, that could be one reason why. Although a Super Bowl role would have to be part of her next contract.

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.

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YES Network

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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Sports TV News

ESPN Paying Nearly $45 Billion For Rights Fees Through 2027

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually

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The last year or two has been evident that the price of rights to airing major college and professional sporting events on television are only going up. But the various networks either with longstanding relationships with leagues and conferences or looking to break into the media rights landscape are willing to pay up. That’s no more evident with Disney, which will be shelling out tens of billions of dollars to have regular season and postseason events air on ESPN.

According to Sportico, which reviewed Disney’s annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, ESPN is set to spend $44.9 billion on sports media rights through 2027.

Currently, the network’s largest spending comes for its Monday Night Football package, which is $2.6 billion annually. Additionally, ESPN will pay $1.4 billion through the 2024-25 season for NBA rights.

The Sportico report noted ESPN will generate more than $8.1 billion in affiliate revenue to help offset those costs. The network will soon be entering talks to renew its media rights deal to be the exclusive home for nearly all NCAA Division I championships, as well as engaging in new NBA rights negotiations.

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Return of Bob Iger Puts Pac-12 ‘Not Exactly In A Great Place’

“I think it’s even more evident it’s not gonna happen. These places aren’t gonna spend big money on the Pac-12.”

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The Pac-12 is currently in a media rights negotiation with partners for its next TV deal after the departure of USC and UCLA. The conference has remained committed to the stance that it feels it can match the dollar amount given to the Big 12 from FOX and ESPN. However, Andrew Marchand of The New York Post isn’t so confident.

During The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast, Marchand said the recent return of Bob Iger as Disney CEO, coupled with recent layoffs from Amazon, could spell bad news for the PAC 12’s quest to match what the Big 12 received.

“Do I still think they can get the same number as the Big 12? I do, but you start thinking about where this is going and that’s not exactly a great place to be if you’re the Pac-12. They might get the number, but the idea that they’ll get a lot more than the Big 12 — which I’ve already said is not gonna happen — I think it’s even more evident it’s not gonna happen. These places aren’t gonna spend big money on the Pac-12…I think there’s some rough waters out in the Pacific.”

Marchand said if the University of California Board of Regents won’t allow UCLA to join the Big Ten as expected, the conference would then set its sights on Washington and Oregon, which would continue to decimate the Pac-12.

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