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Carroll’s Column: The Annual Upfronts

Image Credit: Walt Disney/2023 Upfront Presentation

NEW YORK — The Fall season will be here before you know it with television networks prepared to make their mark across the entertainment industry. Several networks began announcing their upcoming plans this past week and let’s just say, get ready… 

The third week in May has long been when the various television networks present their slate of fall shows to advertisers and the media with glitzy presentations known as upfronts. Traditionally, most of the attention is lavished on primetime entertainment programs. That was not the case this year as the Writers Guild of America strike put a kibosh on discussion of most scripted shows, which meant TV network executives concentrated on their news, reality shows, and especially, sports programming. 

Disney was more than happy to let its ESPN subsidiary handle most of the heavy lifting during its upfront presentation. Serena Williams kicked things off by announcing she would be partnering with ESPN for a multi-part documentary. Former NFL punter Pat McAfee, who has had an extremely popular successful sports podcast because of his ability to interview hard-to-get athletes as Aaron Rodgers, along with his irreverent sense of humor, which has often included bawdy language, was on stage at Javits Center to announce he was moving his afternoon show to ESPN. 

ESPN had one of their college voices, Desmond Howard, remind advertisers the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” was the new home for southeastern Conference (SEC) college football. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman followed him on stage by discussing the strong 2023 Monday Night Football package which will feature two Jets and Giants games. Newly acquired New York Liberty star Breanna Stewart reminded all that the 2023 WNBA season was about to begin, and expectations were high for the league’s flagship team. 

FOX Sports is best known for its Major League Baseball and National Football League rights. Given they were appealing to a New York audience which had a high percentage of Yankees fans, FOX was wise to have former Yankees teammates Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez tout their offerings. The FIFA Women’s World Cup is taking place this year, and FOX introduced their newest analyst, retired soccer star, Carli Lloyd. 

NBC Universal Sports & Entertainment CEO Mark Lazarus played up the fact it’s “Sunday Night Football” NFL telecasts have been the top-rated primetime program for the past dozen years. This year his network will be showing Big Ten Conference games on Saturday nights this fall. 

He also announced a January NFL Wild Card game will be broadcast exclusively on NBC’s streaming service, Peacock. 

The CW was acquired last year by Nexstar Media Group, and it is turning its attention to sports for the first time. This spring it acquired the broadcast rights to the PGA Tour’s upstart competitor, LIV Golf. The CW recently launched “100 Days to Indy,” a behind-the scenes look at the drivers of the Indy Racing League in their quest to win the Indy 500 which will be broadcast this Sunday on NBC. Indianapolis native, and part-owner of Rahal Racing, David Letterman was interviewed for the debut episode. 

Telemundo – Spanish-Speaking Broadcast for 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup

Official Logo of 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup – Image Credit: FIFA/Twitter

While FOX Sports has the English-speaking broadcasting rights nationally to the upcoming Women’s World Cup, Telemundo (Channel 47 locally) will have the Spanish-speaking rights in the US. Telemundo also televises the world’s most prestigious professional soccer organization, the English Premier League, in Spanish, They also have the rights to Mexico’s most popular soccer team, Chivas, who play in the country’s second largest city, Guadalajara.

CBS Announces Deal with Televisa Univision to Broadcast 2024 Super Bowl in Spanish

CBS and its parent corporation, Paramount, did not hold an upfront presentation last week. Nonetheless, CBS Sports did make news last week. It announced it did sign a deal with Televisa Univision to have the 2024 Super Bowl broadcast domestically in Spanish.

Super Bowl LVII – Image Credit: NFL/Twitter

They also announced former NFL quarterback Matt Ryan will be joining the network as a studio and game analyst. Ryan is best known for guiding teams which blew big leads in important games. 

Rescue: HI-Surf 

One of the few entertainment shows for the fall season which was announced was “Rescue: HI-Surf,” which will dramatize the lives of lifeguards and surfers who challenge the high and mighty waves of the north shore of Oahu. Golden oldies music fans will remember the 1964 Jan & Dean hit, “Ride the Wild Surf,” as well as the movie of the same name, which first brought this area to pop culture prominence. 

Pat McAfee the next celebrity on Dancing with the Stars? 

Pat McAfee – Image Credit: ESPN/AP Photos

I asked Pat McAfee if he would compete on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” if he is asked now that he is working under the Disney corporate umbrella. “The time commitment and physical work which goes into preparing for that show would be too much for me,” he quickly replied. 

Former Giants QB Jesse Palmer set to host “The Golden Bachelor” this Fall

Former Giants QB Jesse Palmer got his start in the entertainment industry by starring as the man whose affections the ladies were trying to win in “The Bachelor” back in 2004. “Michael Strahan still gives me grief about appearing on that show. He couldn’t understand why a Giants QB would have to go on it to find love,” he told me.

The handsome and personable Palmer turned that appearance into hosting duties on the syndicated “Daily Mail” gossip show, and on “The Bachelor” itself. This fall he will be hosting “The Golden Bachelor,” in which all the participants will be part of the AARP demographic. Palmer laughed when I told him the producers won’t have to worry about them getting into trouble as has been the case in the past with some of “The Bachelor” participants. “I hope you are right,” he said smiling. 

Warner Brothers Discovery Announces AEW Collision starting June 17th

AEW Collision – Image Credit: TNT/Twitter

Warner Brothers Discovery used their upfront presentation to announce professional wrestling will be returning to Saturday nights, a time which most baby boomers recall watching it in their youth. Warner Brothers Discovery, along with All Elite Wrestling, will debut “AEW Collision” on TNT starting June 17. It will be interesting to see whether WBD will have AEW shows on demand as part of its revamped Max streaming service.

NBC Universal’s Mark Marshall – “It’s My First Year” 

At upfronts, it is the network’s head of sales, and not the CEO, who is the quarterback at the event. The host who was under the most scrutiny was NBC Universal’s Mark Marshall, who had little time to prepare for it, as his boss, Linda Yaccarino was named the CEO of Twitter by Elon Musk three days before the NBC upfront. Jeff Shell was removed as NBC Universal CEO just a couple of weeks earlier because of a sexual harassment charge. 

Marshall held his own quite well. When the Teleprompter got stuck, Marshall let the audience know that and joked, “It’s my first year!” and got a terrific ovation. The only person who got a louder ovation than Marshall at Radio City Music Hall last Monday morning was MSNBC election analyst Steve Kornacki. The man who got the most muffled acknowledgement was CNN CEO Chris Light who was taking a lot of heat for his network’s poorly executed New Hampshire town hall with Jamaica Estates native Donald Trump. 

Pete vs. Pete at Citi Field in Rays-Mets

Tampa Bay Rays reliever Pete Fairbanks may have a career in broadcasting given his quick wit. Last Wednesday, Fairbanks gave up a 10th inning walk-off home run to Mets first baseman Pete Alonso. 

A Tampa reporter asked him after the game for his reaction. “Well, I guess he was the better Pete tonight!” he said with a smile. Another reporter asked him why he threw the pitch Alonso hit out of Citi Field. “I was trying to strike him out!” Fairbanks said with a chuckle. I wish more athletes would show that kind of grace and good humor. 

Royal Ivey Joins Houston Rockets Coaching Staff

Hollis, Queens, New York native Royal Ivey, who got his start on the Cardozo High School varsity boys basketball team, and then went to play at the University of Texas and nine years in the NBA, will be an assistant coach for the Houston Rockets next year. Expect him to be a head coach for an NBA franchise soon.

Epiphanny Prince signs with New York Liberty

Queensbridge, Queens, New York native Epiphanny Prince, whose WNBA career was interrupted by depression, is trying to reignite it. She was signed last week by the New York Liberty. I wish her well.

You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.

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