ESPN Networks To Carry Full Coverage Of This Weekend’s Dodgers-Pirates Series

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

The ESPN family of networks has a special treat for baseball fans this weekend. It will bring full coverage of the Dodgers and Pirates this weekend in the teams’ weekend-spanning three-game series.

ESPN and family of networks will bring baseball fans full coverage of this weekend’s three-game series between the Dodgers and Pirates. It all kicks off tonight at 7pm ET on ESPN and WatchESPN with coverage presented by Taco Bell. Gerrit Cole is expected to get the start for the Pirates in tonight’s game while Clayton Kershaw will get the start for the Dodgers. Cole’s last start was this past Saturday against the Pirates’ NL Central foes, the Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati got the win in that game, defeating Pittsburgh 4 – 3 with Cole taking the loss. Cole pitched five innings in that game, throwing a total of ninety-eighty pitches, sixty-six of which were strikes for a roughly sixty-eight percent strike rate. Speaking of strikes, Cole struck out five of twenty-three batters that he faced. He allowed four hits, two runs, two earned runs, one home run and walked two.

Clayton Kershaw last took the mound last Saturday against the Angels. The Dodgers got the 3 – 1 win in that game with Kershaw being credited with the win. Kershaw pitched one hundred fifteen pitches over eight innings in the game, seventy-seven of which were strikes. That’s a roughly sixty-seven percent strike rate. Of the twenty-six batters that Kershaw faced, he struck out seven, allowing only two hits, no runs and no earned runs among them. He walked only one.

Coming into tonight’s series’ opener, Los Angeles sits third in the National League standings behind the Cardinals and Pirates three games ahead of the Giants in the NL West. So this game and the pair to follow will be crucial for both teams as the race for the post season heats up. The Dodgers are currently 62 – 46 on the season, and 6 – 4 in their last ten games with two of those last ten being wins for the team. Tonight’s series opener will be especially interesting because both the Dodgers and Pirates have proven to be better at home than on the road. As a matter of fact, the teams’ home records are nearly identical with Pittsburgh currently going 36 – 18 at home so far this season and the Dodgers going 37 – 18 at home so far this season. Both teams’ road records are equally unstable. Pittsburgh has accrued a 26 – 26 road record while Los Angeles has gone 25 – 28 on the road so far this season.

Dan Shulman will have the call for tonight’s game. He will be joined in the booth by analysts Curt Schilling and John Kruk. Reporter Buster Olney will also be on hand for all of the latest in-game reports and news from around the league.

The ESPN networks’ coverage of the series between the Pirates and Dodgers continues Saturday afternoon on ESPN Radio as Matt Latos and Francisco Liriano take to the mound for the Dodgers and Pirates respectively. John Sciambi will have the call for that game. He will be joined by analyst Chris Singleton. Coverage for Saturday night’s game is scheduled for a 3pm ET start.

This weekend’s coverage of the Dodgers and Pirates is rounded out Sunday night on Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell and Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown presented by Chevrolet. Karl Ravech will anchor Sunday night’s edition of Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown presented by Chevrolet, which begins at 7pm ET. He will be joined at the desk by Aaron Boone, Tim Kurkjian, and reporter Nicole Briscoe. Those that won’t be near a TV can catch Sunday Night Countdown on ESPN Radio, hosted by Jon Sciambi. It will also be simulcast online on WatchESPN and on ESPN Deportes for MLB’s Spanish-speaking audiences. Dan Shulman will have the call on Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell. That broadcast is scheduled for an 8pm ET start. Shulman will be joined in the booth once again by his SNB cohorts Curt Schilling and John Kruk and on the field by reporter Buster Olney. Charlie Morton is expected to get the start for Pittsburgh and Alex Wood for Los Angeles.

More information on the ESPN networks’ coverage of this weekend’s series between the Pirates and Dodgers is available online now along with all of the latest MLB headlines at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/mlb

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ESPNBaseballTonight

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NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series Closes Its “Western Swing” This Weekend

Courtesy:  NHRA

Courtesy: NHRA

The NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series finishes off its annual “Western Swing” this weekend. And thanks to ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, fans of drag racing’s top series will get to see all of the action from the Northwest Nationals in Seattle, Washington.

ESPN 2 will carry Qualifying coverage Saturday, September 8th beginning at 11pm ET. Final eliminations will run Sunday, August 9th at 9pm ET on ESPN2. Fans who have access to ESPN3 can catch full coverage of eliminations live there Sunday after noon at 2pm ET. Coming off of last weekend’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals, DSR teammates Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown Currently sit 1-2 in the Top Fuel Division after Brown took the Wally in that division. He now sits thirty-seven points back from Schumacher. DSR came out on top in the Funny Car division, too with “Fast” Jack Beckman taking the trophy there. He now sits in second fifty-seven points behind his DSR teammate Matt Hagan. In the Pro Stock division, Harlow Sammons Racing driver Chris McGaha came out on top, edging out Jonathan Gray with a 212.13, 0.024 to Gray’s 211.03, 0.016. Sunday’s final marked the first time that the competitors had gone wheel to wheel in a final round. McGaha now sits in fourth on the Pro Stock ladder, 210 points back from division leader Greg Anderson. 2014 Pro Stock Champion Erica Enders currently sits second to Anderson, 47 points back.

Dave Rieff will anchor this weekend’s coverage from Seattle. He will be joined in the booth by analyst Mike Dunn, and in the pits by reporters Gary Gerould and John Kernan. More information on ESPN’s coverage of the NHRA Northwest Nationals is available online at http://espn.go.com/racing. All of the latest headlines from Seattle are available online along with all of the latest NHRA news at:

Website: http://www.nhra.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NHRA

Twitter: http://twitter.com/NHRA

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Astros Look To Avoid Sweep Against Rangers Tonight On ESPN Radio

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Houston and Texas face off tonight on ESPN Radio.

Tonight’s matchup between the teams is the finale of a three-game series between the AL West foes. And Houston will be hungry for some redemption coming into tonight’s game, as Texas has already taken two of the series’ three-games so far. Nick Martinez is expected to start for the Rangers in tonight’s game while Scott Kazmir will start for Houston, which currently sits third overall in the American League standings behind Kansas City and the New York Yankees. Kazmir’s last time on the mound was last Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Houston blanked the Angels 3 – 0 in that game. While Kazmir’s teammate Luke Gregerson was credited with the win, it was Kazmir that carried the ‘Stros through most of the game, throwing one hundred eleven pitches over seven point two innings. Over the course of that time, he fired off five Ks, allowed only three hits, and three walks. He allowed no runs, no earned runs, and no home runs. Of those one hundred eleven total pitches, sixty nine were strikes. That is roughly sixty two percent of his total pitches.

Martinez’s last time on the mound was this past Friday as the Rangers faced the Giants. Texas won that game 6 – 3. Martinez was credited with the win in the game. He pitched 6.1 innings, striking out four batters along the way. He allowed a total of seven hits, two runs, two earned runs, and two walks. Though, he prevented the Giants from knocking any balls out of the park, throwing fifty-nine strikes over the course of ninety-nine pitches for a fifty-nine percent strike rate.

Houston currently sits atop the American League West three games ahead of the Angels. However, Texas has been on a tear as of late, going 6 – 4 in its last ten games and has won its last three straight games, two of which came against the Rangers Monday and Tuesday. Houston is 5 – 5 in its last ten games and lost its last two games. Interestingly enough, Texas is 22 – 29 at home so far on the season whereas Houston is 22 – 30 on the road.

Adam Amin will have the call for tonight’s game live from Texas. He will be joined in the booth by Chris Singleton for additional commentary. Coverage is expected to begin at 7pm ET. More information on ESPN’s MLB coverage is available online along with all of the latest MLB headlines at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/mlb

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ESPNBaseballTonight

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Red Sox, Yankees Renew Their Rivalry Once More This Week On ESPN’s WNB

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

Tomorrow night on ESPN, one of the longest-running rivalries in sports will see its latest chapter written when the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees face off once again.

The Bosox and Yanks will face off live August 5th on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball live from New York in the rubber match of a three-game series between the AL East foes that kicks off tonight. Jon Sciambi will have the call for Wednesday night’s game. He will be joined in the booth by analysts Rick Sutcliffe and Doug Glanville for additional commentary. Luis Severino is currently slated to take the mound for the pinstripers in his major league debut while Steven Wright is expected to start for Boston. Wright’s last time on the mound was last Thursday against the White Sox. He was credited with the win in Boston’s 8 – 2 route of Chicago having faced twenty-nine batters over seven innings. Over that time, he struck out eight batters, allowed only six hits, two runs, two earned runs, two walks, and one home run. And out of his one hundred sixteen total pitches, he threw a total of seventy-seven strikes, which is a roughly sixty-seven percent strike rate.

New York currently sits atop the AL East, leading second place Baltimore by five and a half games while Boston sits at the bottom of the division thirteen games back. Currently, New York is 59 – 45 so far on the season and 6 – 4 in its last ten games. Considering Boston’s struggles this year and New York’s 30 – 17 home record so far this season, the odds are in New York’s favor in not only Wednesday night’s game but in the series in whole. Boston, on the other hand, is 47 – 59 so far on the season and 5 – 5 in its last ten games. It is 20 – 31 on the road verses and 27 – 28 at home.

Tomorrow night’s game will be available both on television and online via ESPN, WatchESPN, and ESPN3. Coverage begins at 7pm ET. More information on Wednesday’s AL East matchup on ESPN is available online along with all of the latest MLB headlines at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/mlb

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ESPNBaseballTonight

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Angels, Astros Face Off In AL Divisional Matchup Tonight On WNB

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

All eyes will be on the Astros and Angels tonight as the teams face off in an AL West divisional showdown on ESPN’s Wednesday Night Baseball.

Tonight’s matchup is the rubber match in the teams’ three-game series. It marks only the second time this season that ESPN has traveled to Houston for its MLB coverage. Lance McCullers is slated to get the start for the ‘Stros while Garrett Richards is expected to get the start for the visiting Angels. Richards’ last time on the mound was last Thursday against Minnesota. He took the loss in the game, allowing four hits, three runs, three earned runs, and three walks and one home run over eight innings pitched. He struck out five batters En route to the Angels’ loss. Mike Morin replaced Richards in the ninth, allowing only one hit, no runs, no earned runs, no walks, no home runs, and struck out two batters.

McCullers’ last time taking the mound was this past Thursday against the Red Sox. He pitched five innings in the team’s 5 – 4 win over Boston, allowing six hits, two runs, two earned runs, three walks, and one home run along the way. He also struck out two batters before heading to the dugout. While those numbers paint one picture, McCullers didn’t do too badly having faced twenty-four batters in his time on the mound, throwing fifty-two strikes in eighty-nine pitches.

The Angels currently lead the AL West division sitting near even with the second place Astros. Both teams are far better at home than on the road so far on the season with the Angels going 32 – 21 (h) and 23 – 23 (a), and the Astros going 34 – 17 (h) and 22 – 28 (a). The Angels are 6 – 4 in their last ten games versus Houston’s 7 – 3 record in its last ten games.

Dave Flemming will have the call for tonight’s NL showdown. He will be joined in the booth by analyst Rick Sutcliffe. Fellow analyst Doug Glanville will be in the outfield covering both teams’ defense while analysts Eduardo Perez and Eric Wedge will be in the Astros’ and Angels’ dugouts respectively with all of the latest from both teams. Perez is a former Astros coach and Angels 1991 first round pick. Tonight’s game will be simulcast on television and online via ESPN, ESPN3, and WatchESPN. More information on tonight’s game is available online now along with all of the latest MLB headlines at:

Website: http://espn.go.com/mlb

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ESPNBaseballTonight

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ESPN Sets Its Sights On NL Playoff Race Sunday And Monday On SNB, MNB

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

August, for most people, is part of what is known as the “dog days of summer.” It is one of the hottest times of the year weather-wise. It is also one of the hottest times of the year for Major League Baseball. That is because things really start to get heated in the race for the playoffs. And this weekend things will definitely get hot in the Big Apple as the Mets host the Nationals on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball presented by Taco Bell in a National League showdown that will definitely have playoff implications for both teams.

Sunday’s game will be the closer in a three-game series between the NL East foes. The series kicks off Friday evening at Shea Stadium. Noah Syndergaard is expected to take the mound for the hometown boys while Jordan Zimmerman is expected to start for the Nats. Syndergaard’s last time taking the mound was Tuesday against the Padres and was credited with the win in that game. He pitched eight innings, allowing only three hits, no runs, no earned runs, and no walks En route to the win. He also struck out nine batters and allowed no home runs.

Zimmerman’s last time on the mound was Tuesday against Miami. Zimmerman took the loss in Miami’s 4 – 1 win over the Nats. He allowed eight hits, three runs, three earned runs, and two walks over six innings and struck out only two batters before being pulled in the seventh.

The Nationals currently lead the National League East division with the Mets trailing in second place by only a single game. Right now the Mets sit precariously in seventh place in the National League standings only a spot ahead of eighth place Arizona, who sits right now at 48 – 51 on the season. New York currently sits 52 – 48 on the season and split its last ten games going 5 – 5 along the way. However, the team is currently in the midst of a three-game win streak that includes a win Tuesday night against the Padres in New York. Tuesday’s game is part of a three-game home stand against the Padres that wraps Thursday night at Shea Stadium. By the numbers, the Mets are much better at home (35 – 16) than on the road (17 – 32). That bodes well for the Mets as the team continues its home stand this weekend against the Nats as they, too are better at home than on the road, going 28 – 19 at home and 24 – 27 on the road so far this season.

Dan Shulman will have the call for Sunday night’s game between the Mets and Nats. He will be joined by his SNB cohorts-analysts Curt Schilling and John Kruk—in the booth. Reporters Buster Olney will also be on hand with all of the latest news and updates on the game and from around the league. Broadcast is scheduled to begin at 8pm ET. It will be preceded, as it is each week, by Baseball Tonight: Sunday Night Countdown presented by Chevrolet, at 7pm ET. Karl Ravech will anchor the broadcast and will be joined by analyst Rick Sutcliffe and reporter Nicole Briscoe. Those that won’t be near a TV Sunday night can still catch both broadcasts online via WatchESPN. Sunday’s game will be simulcast in Spanish via ESPN Deportes for ESPN’s Spanish-speaking audiences.

*             *             *

Monday night on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball presented by USAA, the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates open a three-game series between the NL Central foes. This series, too has playoff implications as both teams are in the hunt for the post-season with Pittsburgh currently sitting second in the National League at 58 – 41, five and a half games back from the NL-leading Cardinals. Chicago sits sixth in the National League standings at 52 – 47. Pittsburgh has split its last ten games, going 5 – 5 along the way and has won its last two games. Before hosting the Cubs next Monday, Pittsburgh looks to finish off the Twins tonight in the teams’ two-game series before heading to Cincinnati to face the struggling Reds in a four-game series that wraps this Sunday night. While Pittsburgh is far better at home than on the road, the team’s series against Cincinnati could improve its road record if the Reds’ struggles continue. And that could play into Pittsburgh’s momentum as it opens its series against the Cubs Monday night. Dave O’Brien will have the call for Monday’s game. He will be joined in the booth by analysts Aaron Boone and Dallas Braden for additional commentary and coverage.  Monday’s game will be simulcast on television and online via ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and WatchESPN. Currently there is no information regarding who will take the mound for the Pirates or Cubs for Monday’s game. Fans on both sides of the ball can keep up with that information online now along with all of the latest baseball news at:

 

Website: http://espn.go.com/mlb

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ESPNBaseballTonight

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

MVC Heads Discuss New ESPN Deal In Media Conference Call

Courtesy:  Missouri Valley Conference/ESPN/NCAA

Courtesy: Missouri Valley Conference/ESPN/NCAA

Officials with ESPN and the Missouri Valley Conference announced this week that both sides had come to terms on a new deal. The deal in question gives the worldwide leader in sports media rights for the next ten years. That means that it gives ESPN increased coverage across its various platforms on television and online through the 20023 – 2024 academic year. In celebration of the announcement leaders from some of the MVC’s participant schools took part in a media conference call along with ESPN VP of College Sports Programming IIan Ben-Hanan. Among the topics covered in the call were the impact of the deal on the conference’s ability to recruit and generally puts it on par with colleges and universities in other conferences, the impact of the deal on local coverage within given markets, coverage of MVC games on ESPN’s platforms and much more. The full transcript of yesterday’s conference call is included below for all fans of the Missouri Valley Conference and audiences in general.

Transcript of ESPN & Missouri Valley Conference Media Call to Announce 10-Year Rights Extension  

Doug Elgin: Good morning, everyone. We are here in Chicago at Loyola University’s School of Communications to announce a long-term extension of the ESPN rights agreement, which clearly signals a new era for our conference. For the term of this new agreement, which runs through the ’23/’24 academic year, the MVC and its member institutions will work together to produce thousands of live athletic events that will be distributed on ESPN3. The co-branded network that will launch next month, The Valley on ESPN3, serves to recognize that our conference continues to be committed to remaining competitive in a fast-changing NCAA Division I landscape. This exponential increase in exposure will bring significant emphasis to men’s and women’s basketball and every conference-sponsored sport.   A key aspect of this campus-based television model will be the involvement of students in the production of live athletics events, and this student involvement is central and foundational to this agreement. Students majoring in broadcast journalism, communications or other areas of study will receive hands-on experience that will enhance their qualifications and opportunities for employment in television media or related fields.   I’m very proud of the commitments that our president’s council and directors are making to our student-athletes and athletic programs and the campus communities in general. We believe ESPN’s commitment to our league through this new agreement is an acknowledgment of our men’s basketball competitiveness that we can compete at the highest level. Certainly Wichita State’s rise to national power and Northern Iowa’s strong run in recent years have opened doors for us, but we’re seeing a much more competitive league in men’s basketball top to bottom.   This new network will provide opportunities to promote academic programs and showcase individuals throughout our campus communities. We are extremely grateful that the Missouri Valley’s relationship with ESPN will be stronger than ever. I think today’s announcement represents one of the biggest steps the MVC has taken in the modern era. This new network will be a game changer for our league. We are a basketball-centric league and the extension of our ESPN agreement ensures we will continue to compete on a national stage. Coaches in every sport will use this exposure to recruit more effectively.   I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Rosalyn Durant, senior vice president of ESPN’s college networks, and Brent Colborne, the director of programming and acquisitions for their hard work in helping to make this strengthened relationship with the MVC possible. I would also like to commend the MVC Associate Commissioner Jack Watkins and media consultant Rick Chryst, who played critical roles in this process.

Ilan Ben-Hanan: Good morning. The Missouri Valley Conference has been a significant contributor to ESPN’s college sports content since our early years, and with this deal will continue to play a key role into the next decade, nearly 40 years since our first agreement. This extension places the conference and its member institutions at the forefront of innovative sports coverage.   The MVC has been a pioneer in embracing new technology. National coverage of multiple sports that didn’t previously exist to millions of fans is the latest example.  We all see the on-campus production initiative as an opportunity for both academic and athletic programs at the member institutions, with benefits that include hands-on experience for students and unprecedented exposure for sports that might otherwise not have been shown on television.

Larry Lyons: The relationship between The Valley and ESPN is tremendous news for MVC men’s basketball. It will provide national coverage for each Valley school as we produce live events for ESPN3. Not only are we building a national platform for our teams to showcase themselves, we are extending the reach of all of our institutions to friends, family, fans, alumni, prospective student-athletes and prospective students. I’m confident that each campus will strive to produce the highest quality of live content and use the creative talents of students and staff to tell the story of inside each contest.

David Wright: This is an exciting day for Drake University and our production. For 28 years we’ve been doing sports production at Drake. We are incredibly excited about the expertise that ESPN will give us and the infusion of excitement of students getting involved in more and more production. This is a new era. What I really am excited about it is it will put athletes and academics together at a greater level than we’ve ever before had at Drake. We are very excited about this.

Gregg Marshall: It obviously gives us an opportunity to play on national television and many different stations across the ESPN brand. We had GameDay here last year. I thought it was tremendous the way they were received as well as the way the league presented itself with the Northern Iowa team coming in as a top-10 team, we were top-10. It just made for great theater with the regular-season title on the line. I know we have the mandate from the league that our teams are supposed to try to participate in the exempt tournaments that are showcased on ESPN over the holiday season. We’ve been doing that for several years. We’re just excited and ecstatic to be able to showcase our league and our program at Wichita State on ESPN.

  1. Coach Marshall, how do you think this agreement maybe puts you closer, or more on par with, other conferences that you not only compete against but recruit against?

Marshall: Well, I think any time you can appear on ESPN, it helps you with not just your regional but national exposure. You can go anywhere and get ESPN channels, and now with ESPN3 from your laptop, which I’ve learned how to do myself. We have an Apple TV. We can watch just about any game now. The Valley is going to be able to talk about how many times you’re on television.   I think every game we played last year was on television. If it wasn’t on ESPN or CBS, then it was on statewide in Kansas. That was only a handful of times. We were on regionally and nationally 20-something times last year, which is great.  Now the other schools will be able to say the same thing. I think it really helps us from a recruiting standpoint, as you mentioned.

  1. Doug, what does it mean to the brand to have your Olympic sports more exposed to a larger audience? Secondly, you’ve been the commissioner for 28 years. There have been a lot of historic moments as commissioner. How does consummating a deal with the number one brand name in the world, how does that rank among your many accomplishments as the commissioner?

Elgin: It’s right up there at the very top. We’ve never underestimated the promotional power of ESPN. When you think about networks that you can partner with, you certainly look to the worldwide leader. I think through the years we’ve had probably seven or eight different contracts with ESPN. This one kind of fills in all the cracks, all of our sports programs are going to benefit. I think the programs that are going to gain the most are those that have been exposed the least. Those would be the Olympic sports. Baseball has been great. We’ve had three teams in the baseball tournament this year, and many years in past history.   I do think this is going to help our recruiting, our coaches, and every program will have the opportunity to tell recruits and their families they’ll be able to watch their sons and daughters play every game of their college careers essentially at home.

  1. Doug, I was curious, what is the financial benefit for the schools out of this deal?

Elgin: Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to talk about the finances of contracts that we have with media companies. I can’t really expound upon that.

  1. Commissioner Elgin, can you speak to the role that the students will have in this production? Is it the full scope of it? To what extent? Is there any concern or consideration for how this would impact quality since you’re lining that up against perhaps some more veteran, more experienced crew members?

Elgin: I’d like to kick that question to associate commissioner Jack Watkins who has been out in the field.

Jack Watkins: ESPN has been largely involved in this process even when we did not have a contract. There have been production professors, if you will, that have been involved with conference calls that have actually made trips to campuses to meet not only with athletic staff, but individuals like Professor David Wright at Drake, to help convey what ESPN expectations are, that production guidelines are met.   To answer your question about the involvement of students, it can be from either running cameras to directing or producing.  The long-term is to have as many students engaged and involved. This whole process with the build-out on campus began in earnest in September of 2014. As Doug communicated earlier, we are looking for a launch date on ESPN at or around September the 4. Our institutions as well as ESPN personnel have been in consistent dialogue to move forward and to produce the very best product we can on air.

Ben-Hanan: In addition to all the benefits and procedures and plans that Jack has described, the opportunity for a deal like this to help deepen and diversify our talent pool, find future people that can work for us or other media companies, is a great asset and part of this deal, something we’re excited about.

  1. Doug or Jack, I want to make sure I understand right. In previous years I could watch Valley games on ESPN3.  Educate me how this is different going forward. Secondly, I noticed in the release, there was a buildup, because it talks about a minimum of basketball games in the six-year agreement. Explain how this is going to roll out. What will fans notice different than in past years? 

Elgin: As Gregg Marshall pointed out, people are becoming much more comfortable accessing live content through mobile apps and WatchESPN. That’s going to be the biggest change. Every game we play in conference in men’s and women’s basketball will be televised in the early years of this agreement. We’re going to start with the court sports, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball. There’s going to be an eagerness by our conference institutions to produce as many events as they can. They will have a blank page to write on. They can produce as many outdoor sporting events as they can capably handle in the early years. But we’re going to peak at literally 800-plus events a year in the final six years of the agreement.   We’re stair-stepping up to that with numbers that we’re capable of achieving. This is going to be a big endeavor for our schools. I think there’s going to be a lot of excitement on campuses. We’re going to tell stories that couldn’t be told on linear networks. We’re going to have opportunities to talk about individuals on campus, faculty members, students that are achieving in the classroom. I just think there’s going to be a whole new wave of opportunity to market and sell our schools.

  1. What does it mean for local packages then, like in Wichita?  Does that go away? 

Elgin: It does not. I think this contract very carefully protects our institutional packages at levels of production in past years, most recent years. We also have protection of our regional syndication. That’s been very important to us, the opportunity to produce games and put them on the regional networks. The best part of that is outside of our five-state footprint, ESPN3 will continue to carry all these games nationally. Again, I credit ESPN for allowing us to spread our games across multiple networks and platforms. We couldn’t be happier with the state of our television operation.

  1. Mr. Ben-Hanan, you talked about the student involvement with the ESPN3 product, with the involvement of each respective Missouri Valley Conference school. I guess on-air is going to be included with that student help. If that’s the case, is there any worry from the on-air quality you are going to get from your student broadcasters?

Ben-Hanan: Thanks for the question. I think all of these things are a process. I think we have had experience with other students involved in our productions at other schools and conferences. So we’re going into this with some expertise and some knowledge of that. Generally speaking, what we’re talking about here from student involvement does not always extend to on-air. Oftentimes we’re talking about the ability to help run cameras, the production truck, run graphics, and the ability to build up and ramp up to production and direction roles.   Certainly there could be an opportunity here or there for students to have some on-air roles. We’ve done things in past years literally involving students embedded in the student section, which gives you a perspective you can’t get otherwise. I think, generally speaking, anyone who rises to that role, we have an expectation of professionalism.  There would be rehearsals and opportunities that hopefully will allow for a level of quality. Having said that, there certainly will be a learning curve. I think we have an expectation that if fans are tuning in to a game, no matter how it’s produced, that it’s credible, that it’s professional, and that it is functional and allows fans to enjoy the game every bit as much as they would otherwise.

  1. Mr. Wright, I know from the Indiana State University campus, there’s a lot of talk about the students being involved primarily with the on-air stuff. From the Drake perspective, what are you planning on doing with your students? 

Wright: Excellent question. We’ve been doing video production for about 28 years in my time at Drake, starting from a delivery truck where we had folding tables. We train our students in a number of the production classes, but now we also have a production division that’s doing work for our steaming and scoreboards. We’ve already made investments in equipment in our production area in the journalism school that are actually very similar to the switcher, a little more powerful than the switcher we will be using in the athletics area. So we are starting to infuse that technology.   What we’re really excited about is the expertise ESPN brings on the graphics side, on the ‘look’ side, and also on the on-air talent side. We’re using a lot of students for on-air talent for some of our cablecasts streaming now. I think the initial thing will be working on the packages, behind the scenes, really understanding what’s going on in the different sports that would be hard for a crew that was coming in from out of town to really know that insight.  That’s where I see that coming eventually. I hope with training, the recruiting is going to change. We’re excited about releasing this to prospective students to say, Look at the opportunities you have to start working towards this.  Hopefully by the time they get to their senior year they’ll be up to snuff. My background says we can do this; we can produce the quality to be on ESPN.

  1. Doug, what is a good audience for the ESPN3?  What are kind of the projections since more and more people are cutting the cord on cable a little bit?  Is this a move towards the future? 

Elgin: I think we’d like to kick that question to our friend in Los Angeles, Ilan Ben-Hanan.

Ben-Hanan: For us a good audience is fans can see the game. We’re really not as concerned with the individual game metrics and trying to determine on a game-by-game basis the total size of the audience. A deal like this is both qualitative and quantitative in nature. And the ability to get these games on in a form that wasn’t even possible just a couple years ago, the ability to not have to worry about the shelf space concerns that have always been limiting for the amount of total games that can be on. That’s what is game-changing about a deal like this. Ultimately our hope is that for the student-athletes, their families, the fans of these schools, the fans of basketball in general, even for the selection committees in the various sports to see these teams, I think that has an impact, not just how many people are tuned in to a given game, but a team’s quest for championships.

  1. – Question regarding current access and the games moving to ESPN3 –

Watkins: Part of this deal, the commitment in the first year is to the core sports of volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball. But the long-term viability and sustainability of this network is to add more sports as the years go on. As part of the deal, those previous sports that were webcast will now be the exclusive property of The Valley on ESPN3.

  1. What kind of investment has The Valley estimated most schools are going to have to put into this to pull this off?

Elgin: I think that varies at each institution. As Professor Wright pointed out, Drake has long made investments in their infrastructure. They’ve been leaders in institutional telecasts. I think that commitment will continue.

  1. For ESPN, has the network ever done anything like this before with any other conference or any league? Is this completely groundbreaking in its nature? 

Ben-Hanan: We have had some experience working with some individual schools in doing these kind of what we call ‘school production deals’. We’ve had some conversations with some conferences that have kind of opened the door for the opportunity to do this. I think something like this done at the conference level with the support of both the academic and athletic sides of the house from the very beginning of the deal, that I think is what makes this very unique. We’ve had some experience, but doing something this comprehensive from the very beginning is something we’re really excited about.

  1. On the investment question. What about the actual equipment, cameras, things like that? Is ESPN going to be involved in helping foot that bill or is that up to the schools? 

Watkins: Any cost will be between the conference and the schools as it relates to the production build-out for our institutions. Again, it’s an initiative. Each school is different in terms of the equipment needs and the infrastructure. Any costs to acquire that equipment or those amenities to make the network viable will be between the conference and our 10 member institutions.   I think it’s important to recognize from the Missouri Valley Conference’s perspective that we have a co-branded channel mark in The Valley on ESPN, that the conference has a mark of which it’s proud. It’s a co-branded mark as a leader in the industry. I think that really becomes our calling card from this point forward.

Elgin: One other thing that differentiates our deal from the others is the tonnage, the sheer number of events that are going to be produced by our campuses and by The Missouri Valley for distribution on ESPN3. More information on ESPN’s coverage of Missouri Valley Conference athletics is available online along with all of the latest sports headlines at:

Website: http://espn.go.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ESPN

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