Tony Romo has distinguished himself as a TV analyst for CBS and is setting himself up to become the most desired color commentator in sports.
Romo will be a TV free agent after his 3-year deal with CBS expires following this season. ESPN is looking to improve its “Monday Night Football” broadcast and is prepared to offer Romo a monster deal. According to Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy, ESPN is going to offer Romo a multi-year deal worth between $10-$14 million annually.
Those figures would blow away what Romo has earned on his current CBS deal and make Romo the highest-paid sports analyst ever.
Romo is said to be making about $4 million currently through CBS. Troy Aikman makes reportedly $7.5 million from FOX, while Jon Gruden was making $6.5 million at ESPN before leaving for the Raiders. Before them, John Madden made around $8 million per season when he was with FOX.
Though ESPN covets Romo as an analyst, it’s no sure thing that he leaves for them. CBS reportedly has the right to match any contract offer. CBS was first to sign Romo, believe in him as a broadcaster, and they paired him with Jim Nantz and added him to their No. 1 team. In other words, they’ve done right by him, so he might feel like it’s best to continue where he has been successful.
This is the second report in the last week that has discussed the possibility of ESPN pursuing Romo.
The SEC on CBS has been an institution for years, but it appears that will be coming to an end in 2023.
According to John Ourand of Sports Business Daily, CBS bid $300 million per season in an attempt to renew its TV contract with the SEC, but bowed out when the bidding went beyond that. In a statement, CBS said it would instead “aggressively focus on other important strategic priorities moving forward.”
The network was outbid by ESPN/ABC, who are reportedly paying north of $330 million per season for the rights to SEC football. One of their major selling points was the ability to be more flexible in terms of scheduling as opposed to CBS’ exclusive window for the week’s best game, meaning that multiple games can be shown on broadcast TV and the best ones can be flexed into primetime.
CBS has carried the SEC since 1996, and has been the exclusive home of the title game since 2001. This marks a big change for college football broadcasting, and adds to ESPN’s hefty portfolio of properties in the sport.
Barstool Sports has continued to steadily grow its media empire since founder Dave Portnoy sold a majority stake of the company nearly three years ago, and it may only be a matter of time before there is such a thing as the Barstool Sports Bowl.
According to a report from Sports Business Journal, Barstool Sports was in the running to sponsor a college bowl game in Mobile, Ala., this year. A deal was actually agreed upon, but Lending Tree ended up securing the sponsorship in part because of “pressure” from the NCAA and ESPN.
Portnoy confirmed the report on Tuesday morning. Not surprisingly, he mocked ESPN for being afraid to “feed the company that is eventually going to eat you.”
ESPN and Barstool have a complicated history, and Portnoy has taken advantage of that by doing what he does best — parlaying a feud into financial gain. ESPN had actually partnered with Barstool two years ago for a TV show, but the agreement was cancelled due to backlash. The deal may have fallen through in large part because of the way Samantha Ponder unloaded on ESPN for working with Barstool.
Barstool is always looking for ways to grow its brand, and that has included sponsoring a NASCAR driver this past season. They’re very good at getting what they want, so we may see the Barstool Sports Bowl before long.
ESPN recently gave Stephen A. Smith a massive contract extension, and the network may be willing to shell out another huge sum of money to bring back his most worthy on-air adversary.
Skip Bayless could potentially return to ESPN when his contract with FOX Sports expires next year, Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports reports. Bayless and Smith are interested in the idea of reuniting on “First Take,” which is where both gained most of the popularity that has placed them among the highest-paid on-air personalities in the industry. One source told McCarthy that they “both want to make it happen,” but it’s unclear if ESPN will be willing to pay more than FOX to bring Bayless back.
Bayless signed a four-year, $25 million contract with FOX in 2016, and the deal is set to expire in 2020. He has teamed with former NFL tight end Shannon Sharpe at FOX Sports 1 for “Undisputed,” which follows the same format as “First Take.” According to McCarthy, the FS1 show averages 150,000 to 180,000 viewers per day in its weekday morning slot. Those numbers are dwarfed by “First Take,” which averages 400,000 to 500,000 viewers per day since it moved from ESPN2 to ESPN.
Smith and Bayless have maintained a close relationship even while working at rival networks, and they are said to believe that their on-air chemistry is unique. If Bayless does return, he would likely replace Max Kellerman and immediately return as Smith’s cohost, or ESPN could try to incorporate all three.
It’s fair to wonder how much ESPN would be willing to pay Bayless when you hear the reported details of Smith’s new extension, but there’s no question pairing Smith and Bayless together again could boost ratings and dominate the market.
Stephen A. Smith has been one of the most polarizing figures in sports media for several years now, and ESPN proved how valuable he is to the company with the latest contract extension he signed.
Smith recently signed a new five-year deal with ESPN that will pay him around $8 million per year, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reports. The new deal dwarfs Mike Greenberg’s $6.5 million salary, which was ESPN’s previous known highest salary.
Smith had one year left on his current deal, according to Marchand, but ESPN enticed him to sign an extension by giving him money up front. James Andrew Miller, who published a best-selling book about the ins and outs of ESPN several years ago, believe’s Marchand’s number of $8 million for Smith is low. Miller has reason to believe Stephen A. got more than $10 million per year.
Either way, it’s an astronomical amount of money.
Smith is the type of personality that gets people who love him and hate him to tune in, and that makes him an invaluable asset to ESPN. He makes his fair share of on-air flubs and always gets roasted for them, but even those embarrassing moments help drive ratings for ESPN>. There was no way they were going to let him leave for another network.
An ESPN internal memo advised those who participate on the network’s talk shows to avoid talking politics about China and Hong Kong when discussing the Daryl Morey/Houston Rockets situation, according to a report.
Deadspin published a story on Tuesday about the matter that included information about the internal memo.
According to the story:
“Chuck Salituro, the senior news director of ESPN, sent a memo to shows mandating that any discussion of the Daryl Morey story avoid any political discussions about China and Hong Kong, and instead focus on the related basketball issues. The memo, obtained by Deadspin, explicitly discouraged any political discussion about China and Hong Kong.”
This policy should come as no surprise. One of new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro’s first items of business upon taking over the position was to establish a firm policy of personalities avoiding political talk. Host Dan Le Batard was one of the few who challenged that policy with comments he made during the summer.
Furthermore, it’s not hard to see why ESPN would want its on-air personalities to avoid getting into the subject. ESPN is owned by Disney, which does business in China, including having a Disneyland in Shanghai. They and the NBA are TV partners and have worked hard to develop business relationships in China that they’re trying not to ruin. And like many big businesses, they’ve chosen to appease the communist country in an effort to preserve business relationships rather than stand up for democracy and human rights/freedoms.
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ESPN deserves some plaudits for quickly responding to fan complaints about their new “Monday Night Football” graphics and changing them.
During the first half of the Houston Texans-New Orleans Saints game, ESPN had a graphics package that featured the down-and-distance graphic highlighted in neon yellow/green. The result was fans were confused, constantly thinking there was a penalty flag on each play since TV graphics often show a yellow graphic to signify penalties on plays.
It didn’t take the network long to adjust. ESPN’s Adam Schefter said before the start of the second half that the network had changed the graphic after hearing the negative fan feedback.
Here was the statement from ESPN PR:
Below is a comparison between the two:
This is one of the nice things about social media — there is the instant ability to receive feedback and respond. ESPN should be commended for making such a quick change.
ESPN’s first “Monday Night Football” telecast of the season was met with negative fan reaction centered around the network’s confusing new yellow graphics package.
The graphics included neon green/yellow timeout bars beneath each team and worse, a neon yellow/green down and distance arrow. The color of the arrow made fans think a penalty flag had been thrown on every play.
Fans were instantly calling for a change. ESPN has to be hearing the feedback. The question is whether they would consider a change. Media reporter Andrew Marchand believes a change would probably take a week.
You may recall that NBC had the same issue last year for their Notre Dame-Michigan game.
UPDATE: ESPN listened to the complaints and made a change before the start of the second half.
Michelle Beadle has had her on-air role reduced at ESPN significantly over the past year, and her time with the company appears to be coming to an end.
Beadle and ESPN have been negotiating a potential buyout that would see her leave the company, according to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post. The 43-year-old still has multiple years remaining on her contract with ESPN and currently makes $5 million annually.
Marchand notes that Beadle’s buyout is expected to be based on a sliding scale, meaning taking more money will give her less of a chance of working for another network immediately, and vice-versa. There will also be a non-disparagement agreement that prevents her from speaking negatively about ESPN or her time with the network.
There has already been speculation that Beadle could wind up doing podcast work or working for a paid subscription service like DAZN, which happens to be run by former ESPN president John Skipper.
SportsbyBrooks.com reported back in July that Beadle could be out as the host of “NBA Countdown” and moved to an on-air role with ABC. Beadle left ESPN’s “Get Up” roughly a year ago after she spoke out against the sport of football and expressed anger over former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer not being fired amid the Zach Smith scandal. She became the host of “NBA Countdown” after leaving “Get Up.” There has also been talk that ESPN is upset with Beadle for not fulfilling her responsibilities off the air.
Dan Le Batard’s comments on his radio show Thursday admonishing Donald Trump for his “send her back” attacks and criticizing ESPN’s no-politics policy will not open the network up to more political commentary.
Le Batard was absent from the first hour of his show Friday. There was speculation that he missed the hour to talk with ESPN leadership before returning for the rest of the show.
In an article on Front Office Sports, Michael McCarthy wrote that if ESPN were to get rid of Le Batard, DAZN, which is headed by former ESPN president John Skipper, would be eager to hire the host. McCarthy also reported that ESPN made it clear to everyone internally, including Le Batard, that their no-politics policy has not changed.
From McCarthy’s article:
ESPN declined to comment on whether Le Batard would be suspended for calling his own network “cowardly” for banning political discussion. But one ESPN source said: “We are making it very clear to everyone internally, including Dan, that our policy hasn’t changed.”
Le Batard openly challenging the policy creates a problem for ESPN. New president Jimmy Pitaro made the new approach to politics a priority when he took over. He cited research that shows their audience does not want political talk. Not disciplining Le Batard could make it seem to some like ESPN is inconsistent given the suspension handed to Jemele Hill for Trump criticism in 2017, though that came under a previous leadership regime. No discipline could also be viewed by critics as ESPN taking a political stance and supporting Le Batard’s comments, further confirming their belief that the network has a liberal political lean.
Le Batard could — and seemingly is arguing — that he is commenting on racism, not politics, but that creates a question about where one draws the line between acceptable topics and not. What if another host wants to comment on feeling threatened by progressive politics? That is why ESPN is trying to emphasize its no-politics stance.