The relationship between Dan Le Batard and ESPN has semingly been strained for quite some time, and the two sides are now parting ways.
ESPN and Le Batard released a joint statement on Thursday announcing that they have “mutually agreed” to go in different directions. Outkick had reported earlier in the day that ESPN and Le Batard were negotiating a buyout agreement.
The final episode of “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” on ESPN Radio and “Highly Questionable” on ESPN will air on Jan. 4. You can read the full statement below:
Le Batard’s radio show was simulcast on ESPNews but got moved to ESPN+ about a month ago. The show also had been cut down to two hours nationally. Reports since April hinted that ESPN was looking to downsize the show and the two sides could be headed for a split.
Le Batard, who reportedly makes around $3 million per year, also pulled a bold move last month after ESPN laid off one of his producers. Le Batard felt horribly about the decision and hired the producer back as a personal assistant, even giving him a raise.
Le Batard found himself in hot water last summer when he openly challenged ESPN’s no-politics policy and ripped Donald Trump. There had been rumblings that ESPN wanted him to focus more on sports rather than pop culture after former president John Skipper left. That difference of views may have contributed to the mutual parting of ways.
ESPN is trying to navigate amid uncertain circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the company announced on Thursday that it is laying off hundreds of employees.
In an internal memo obtained by Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro announced that 300 employees have been laid off. ESPN is also eliminating 200 job positions that were previously open, resulting in a reduced workforce of 500. That reduction is the largest in company history.
Here’s the full memo:
The layoffs are all impacting behind-the-scenes staffers, according to McCarthy.
There was also a chance ESPN was going to ask some of its top talent to take pay cuts, though it’s unclear if that has happened. The network lost another one of its top on-air personalities last month, as Keith Olbermann announced he was let out of his contract to launch a political show on YouTube.
“Sunday Night Football” could have a new television home if ESPN gets its way.
According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, ESPN and Disney are prepared to pay at least $1 billion to secure the rights to the NFL’s weekly Sunday night game. The network would likely place that game on ABC. The rights are currently held by NBC, which will compete to keep them.
There are multiple reasons ESPN wants to add a second NFL package in addition to “Monday Night Football.” The network wants a spot in the Super Bowl rotation, which it does not have currently. In addition, Disney executives have argued to the NFL that they pay $2 billion per year for the inferior Monday night schedule and no Super Bowl, while NBC’s Sunday night package gets them a Super Bowl broadcast and a better and more flexible schedule for just $950 million. It is important to note, however, that ESPN’s deal grants them a near-monopoly on NFL highlights.
If NBC were to lose the Sunday night game, they could still bid on Monday or Thursday games.
The current “Monday Night Football” deal runs through 2021, while the league’s other TV packages expire after the 2022 season. Renegotiations are already underway, and it looks like the cost for these packages is primed to go way up.
ESPN has not exactly drawn rave reviews for its “Monday Night Football” broadcast since Jon Gruden returned to coaching, and apparently fans aren’t the only ones who have been disappointed with the commentary.
During his weekly appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show,” Aaron Rodgers was asked for his thoughts on Monday night’s game between the Los Angeles Chargers and New Orleans Saints. He took the opportunity to mention how he watched the game with the sound off, which he says he has done with most games carried by ESPN over the last few years.
“I didn’t see a whole lot of that. It was on for a little bit with the sound off, which is how I’ve watched a lot of games on ESPN over the last few years,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers was then asked if he has issues with everybody at ESPN or just certain people, and he mentioned how Kenny Mayne is “one of my all-time favorites.” He added that he enjoys watching football but prefers to listen to music during the games rather than taking in the commentary.
ESPN has tried desperately to improve its “Monday Night Football” crew since Gruden left, but they were turned down by several huge names. This year’s trio of Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick is certainly an improvement over Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland, but it still leaves plenty to be desired.
Of course, Rodgers has been open in recent years about how much he dislikes the media. It’s no surprise he listens to games with the sound off.
ESPN is reportedly on the verge of laying off hundreds of employees due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and the network could also look to trim overhead by paying some of its top talent less money.
Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports was told by sources that ESPN could lay off somewhere between 300 and 700 employees in the coming weeks. While the layoffs are expected to have the greatest impact on behind-the-scenes employees, it’s possible the network could ask some of its highest-earning on-air talent and executives to take salary reductions.
ESPN is losing another one of its top on-air personalities, as Keith Olbermann announced this week that ESPN is letting him out of his contract so he can launch a political show on YouTube.
The need to save money is said to stem from the struggles parent company Walt Disney World Co. is experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney World in Florida was closed for months, while Disneyland in California remains closed. The Disney Cruise Line has also not been offering any sailings.
ESPN pursued some huge names for its “Monday Night Football” broadcast team this season, but the network turned to in-house candidates after the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The network is reportedly focusing on expanding its NFL, NHL and NBA television rights in the coming years.
ABC did not televise the national anthem that was played before Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Friday night.
Viewers watching the programming on ABC may have noticed that there was pregame coverage, then some commercials, and then the game tipped off. Missing prior to the tip off was the national anthem ceremony. That was at least the case for those watching on traditional TV and YouTube TV.
The national anthem was played for those attending and playing in the game. Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed it.
Based on video from Marc J. Spears, who reported on the game from inside the arena, both the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat appeared to kneel.
So why didn’t ABC show the anthem ceremony on TV?
They may have received some negative feedback when only one player stood for the anthem prior to Game 1 of the series. If they made a conscious decision to not show the anthem ceremony this time, it may have been to avoid the polarizing discussion about the matter.
This wouldn’t be the first time ESPN decided to handle the national anthem situation by avoiding it. In 2018, they declined to air the national anthem before NFL games due to the controversy over players kneeling.
Trey Wingo will not be moving to a new role with ESPN after the radio show he co-hosted with Mike Golic was canceled last month.
Wingo is being let go by ESPN, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports. His contract was set to expire at the end of the year.
Wingo is the one who reportedly began the process of canceling “Golic & Wingo” when he informed ESPN executives that he no longer wanted to work on an early-morning show. That was prior to the coronavirus pandemic, when the network would have had more opportunities for him to work in other roles. Wingo’s most prominent role with ESPN has been covering the NFL Draft, but network executives did not want to keep him around just for that.
While Wingo’s first choice would be to move to NFL Network, Marchand reports that the host has been unsuccessful thus far in his pursuit of a role there.
Wingo, 56, had been with ESPN since 1997. He began as an Arena Football League announcer before moving on to more prominent assignments. He eventually became the lead host of “NFL Live,” which is a role that is being filled by Laura Rutledge this season.
Golic, Wingo’s former partner, is remaining with ESPN for the time being. He has already been assigned a new gig for the college football season.
College football is likely to look different in 2020, but ESPN is set to broadcast as normal a season as possible.
The network announced its three main commentary teams for 2020 on Monday. Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will retain their usual Saturday night spot. Notably, Joe Tessitore returns to calling college games after his two year stint on “Monday Night Football.”
Fowler and Herbstreit will be doing at least one NFL game in 2020 in addition to their college football duties. Anything more depends on how schedules shake out in both sports.
While the Big Ten and Pac-12 won’t be playing in the fall, the other three Power 5 conferences will be as of now. ESPN and ABC have rights to air games in all three leagues, so there will be plenty for them to broadcast.
ESPN officially has an all-new crew for “Monday Night Football.”
On Monday, ESPN confirmed previous reports that Steve Levy will be the new play-by-play announcer for “Monday Night Football” with Brian Griese and Louis Riddick serving as analysts. Lisa Salters will return for her ninth season as sideline reporter, while officiating analyst John Parry will be back for his second season.
ESPN’s new trio will call the second game of the Week 1 Monday night double-header, which features the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos. The first game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants will be the NFL broadcast debut for ESPN’s top college duo of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit.
We could see more of Fowler and Herbstreit calling NFL games for ESPN this year, as they might work some Saturday NFL broadcasts depending upon what happens with the college football season.
ESPN shifted its attention to internal candidates for “Monday Night Football” after a slew of former NFL quarterbacks turned down the network’s massive offers. They’re hoping Levy, Riddick and Griese will bring more success than Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland did before them.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay has already led his team to a Super Bowl and essentially has his entire coaching career in front of him, but that did not stop ESPN from exploring whether or not the 34-year-old has interest in wearing a different type of headset.
ESPN spoke with McVay this offseason about joining the “Monday Night Football” crew as an analyst, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports. While McVay entertained the conversation, he is under contract with the Rams and has no interest in leaving his job.
Should McVay decide he wants to take some time off from coaching, ESPN made it clear there would be interest in hiring him in a broadcast role.
While you can’t blame ESPN for trying, the fact that they reached out to a 34-year-old head coach whose job is completely secure gives you an idea of how desperate the network is. They’ve decided to hire strictly from within to replace Joe Tessitore and Booger McFarland, but that was not their first, second, or even third choice.
A slew of former and current NFL quarterbacks turned down massive offers from ESPN. The network also considered moving its top college broadcast duo to NFL games. McVay was simply another option ESPN decided to explore out of desperation, albeit a very unrealistic one.