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Emily Kaplan Discusses New Role as Sideline Reporter for ESPN

Before this season, Emily Kaplan hoped to get a “couple of games” on the sideline for ESPN’s hockey coverage. Now, she’s the network’s top sideline reporter.

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Emily Kaplan
Jeff Haynes/ESPN Images

When ESPN got the NHL back on its network, Emily Kaplan saw it as an opportunity to expand her coverage of the sport.

Before this season, she was writing about the sport for ESPN.com. This year, she got the chance to add something else to her resume: sideline reporting.

On The Block Party with Seth Kushner podcast, Kaplan said she went to her bosses to ask if she could try sideline reporting this year. She never imagined it would lead to her being on the opening night broadcast on the network’s lead coverage team:

“I had some initial conversations with the big bosses and I pretty much said I’d love to try sideline reporting. It was something I always wanted to add to my repertoire. I think I would be good at it… If you could give me 1-2 games of experience, that would be great, maybe I’d grow from that. Then, when I found out that I was going to be on the opening night broadcast from Tampa Bay as they raised the banner, I just had chills. That’s something I couldn’t even dream about.”

Sometimes being a sideline reporter means having to ask the tough questions when someone’s struggling. Kaplan did receive some criticism during the Rangers-Hurricanes series last round when she was interviewing Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour about benching goalie Anti Raanta when Raanta was right in front of her.

She discussed it with Julie Stewart-Bunks over the weekend on The Third Period NHL Live Show on Twitter in the link below. Kaplan mentioned that the key to having success on sideline reporting is to be the vehicle for the viewer:

For me, it’s all about being economical with words. I have such tiny windows in hockey to get on-air. It is such a fast-paced game. My biggest fear is talking over a goal and robbing the viewer of that moment. For me, the little stresses right beforehand is I need to be directed with every word that I say has to be intentional.

“For me, my philosophy behind questions is I’m just there as the vehicle. People don’t really care about my opinion right now. I’m just there to get the subject to open up… Sometimes, I get a little bit of jitters. I think that’s natural. In this job, like any job, it’s all about reps. The more I’ve done it, the more natural it has been.”

One thing Kaplan is tired of hearing criticism about is wearing a mask during interviews. She wanted to make it clear that while some fans might be distracted by it, it is a required by the NHL to wear a mask while interviewing players and coaches:

“I’m really tired of it. I think it’s unfortunate that it’s becoming distracting. For me, I just want people to focus on my work, focus on the interviews I’m doing, focusing on the subjects and the answers I get out of those subjects. Unfortunately, it seems like 50% of the tweets I receive, and one of the reasons I have not been checking my Instagram and DMs and things like that, is because people just want to yell and shout at me.”

“The reason I wear a mask while I interview players and coaches is because the NHL requires me to. I would not be able to do my job if I didn’t. They literally won’t let me turn on the camera. So, that’s why I do it. I understand it’s distracting and frustrating for viewers. It is what it is.”

You can catch Kaplan reporting on the action during the rest of the Eastern Conference final for ESPN as well as the upcoming Stanley Cup Final later this month on ABC as part of the broadcast team with Sean McDonaugh and Ray Ferraro.

Sports TV News

Pac-12 Networks Content Could Be Headed To ACC Network

“Dellenger and Forde report that talks to make the deal a reality are in the very early stages.”

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ESPN has been at the center of a lot of conversations about the future of college sports following the Big Ten plucking UCLA and USC out of the Pac-12. The network could be part of a broadcasting partnership that is meant to secure the futures of the Pac-12 and the ACC.

In a joint report for Sports Illustrated, Ross Dellenger and Pat Forde write that the two conferences would not merge, but that the ACC Network could get renamed and include content centered on both conferences.

A deal like this would pay dividends for all involved. The ACC would get more TV revenue and the Pac-12 would get broader distribution that it had with its proprietary Pac-12 Networks, which was reportedly struggling to even stay afloat. It could also secure the conference’s future as some members consider leaving for the Big 12. As for ESPN, this deal would put them back in business with the Pac-12.

A programming alliance between the two conferences could create some marquee non-conference matchups for football and basketball. That would give ESPN event programming to promote and sell.

Dellenger and Forde report that talks to make the deal a reality are in the very early stages. They write that “those briefed on the ACC–Pac-12 proposal believe it has plenty of hurdles to clear and details to be ironed out before becoming a reality.”

The obvious question all parties involved will want to be answered is would merging ACC Network and Pac-12 Networks content generate enough new revenue to make the move viable. Sources told Sports Illustrated that it is what they will be focused on if talks progress.

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Brian Windhorst Explains What Was Behind His Viral Rant

“To be honest with you, part of what I was doing was trying to do was avoid aggregation,” he said. “Because if I come out and go I think the Jazz are going to trade Rudy Gobert today, then everything on the internet is ‘Windhorst Report: Jazz trade Gobert.’ And then maybe they don’t trade him.”

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There wasn’t a ton of NBA free agency news leading into the long holiday weekend last week, but what news there was became wildly more interesting thanks to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

Windhorst, appearing on First Take on Friday, went on an entertaining rant about the Utah Jazz trading Royce O’Neale to Brooklyn, throwing tidbits out there that insinuated more was to come.

The monologue went viral and became the subject of plenty of memes.

Talking on his podcast Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective, Windhorst explained that the ‘A’ block of First Take is 30 minutes long, much different than the other ESPN shows he appears on. He said he approached it from a podcasting perspective and added that First Take was really the only place he could’ve pulled something like that off given a multitude of factors.

“It had to have occurred on a show like that,” Windhorst said. “So I was able to kind of draw out and kind of have a conversation about the Utah Jazz.”

Windhorst said he knew the Jazz were going to trade Rudy Gobert, which happened not long after his rant started circulating the internet. But he said he needed to avoid tipping others in the media off or potentially even wrecking the trade before it became official.

“To be honest with you, part of what I was doing was trying to do was avoid aggregation,” he said. “Because if I come out and go I think the Jazz are going to trade Rudy Gobert today, then everything on the internet is ‘Windhorst Report: Jazz trade Gobert.’ And then maybe they don’t trade him.”

Windhorst said he knew he was becoming the subject of many a meme, but after being on the road so long and away from home covering the NBA playoffs, he didn’t really have a chance to relish in the moment.

“I came back home and had nonstop family stuff to do, and they didn’t care about any of that,” he said. “I was getting like 250 text messages and seeing all these memes, but I had to prepare for the people we had coming over for the 4th of July. I couldn’t really focus on it.”

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UFC Draws Record Ratings for UFC 276 Prelims on ESPN and ABC

The ratings make it the second-most watched UFC telecast since the promotion began airing on ESPN in 2019. It was also the top telecast ever for a preliminary card.

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UFC, ESPN and ABC have plenty to celebrate following this weekend’s UFC 276 pay-per-view.

Ratings for the preliminary card show a combined audience of 1.8 million tuned in across ABC and ESPN. ABC drew 929,000 viewers for their portion of the card, which marked the first time UFC aired in primetime on the network.

ESPN drew 871,000 in the lead-up to the main card from Las Vegas.

The ratings make it the second-most watched UFC telecast since the promotion began airing on ESPN in 2019. It was also the top telecast ever for a preliminary card.

UFC will return to ABC on July 16 but won’t air in primetime. Coverage of UFC Fight Night from UBS Arena on Long Island will air in the afternoon.

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