SBJ Media: Ryen Russillo Going Exclusive With The Ringer
The Hurricanes knocked the Caps out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs about three months ago. Today, I traveled to Charlotte to pay my debt to Michael Smith, Austin Karp and Josh Carpenter with D.C.’s best crabcakes from BlackSalt restaurant. Only problem: nobody down here has any Old Bay!
RYEN RUSSILLO JOINING THE RINGER EXCLUSIVELY
- Ryen Russillo is leaving ESPN after 14 years to join The Ringer. Russillo signed a multiyear deal with The Ringer to do three of his “Dual Threat” podcasts per week during the NFL season and twice a week in the off-season. Russillo, who turns 44 today, will appear on other Ringer podcasts like Bill Simmons’ weekly one from February to mid-July. He’ll join other Ringer pods like the “Rewatchables” and “Ringer NBA show.” As part of the deal, he will be exclusive to The Ringer. His contract with ESPN ends Aug. 31, but it is not known if he will appear on any ESPN platform in the next three weeks. He starts at The Ringer in September.
- Even while producing podcasts for ESPN last year, Russillo was a mainstay on The Ringer. He appeared on Simmons’ podcast 20 times last NBA season, in addition to his work with ESPN. Those podcasts logged more than 2 million downloads. Russillo wrote and starred in an “NBA Support Group” video for Ringer Originals that had 91,000 plays on YouTube and more than 700,000 views on Twitter. Russillo: “This is not an anti-ESPN move. It’s a pro-Ringer one. I have wanted to pursue other things for a while, and Bill gave me this opportunity.”
- Simmons: “Ryen was one of my most talented co-workers when we worked together at ESPN, and I’ve been just as impressed these last 12 months with how easily he fit into everything we’re doing at The Ringer. He’s a proven multimedia personality and a first-class talent, he’s a truly authentic voice, and he’s unafraid to keep trying new things. We’re delighted we could deepen our relationship with him -- I absolutely love working with him. I’m gonna fight off the urge to compare this moment to The Rock joining the cast of 'Fast Five.'”
SPORTS TO REMAIN KEY PRIORITY UNDER NEW CBS BOSS
- A working agreement around the CBS-Viacom merger will have Bob Bakish become CEO of the combined company with Joe Ianniello being offered a job to oversee all the CBS-branded assets, according to a report over the weekend by the Wall Street Journal's Ben Mullin and Cara Lombardo. That would be a good outcome for CBS Sports if the story pans out, suggesting a business-as-usual approach for a division known for deep relationships and high-quality productions.
- CBS Sports faced similar questions about how much its strategy would change last September when Les Moonves left CBS amid sexual harassment allegations. Moonves was a sports fan who loved big events, and there were questions whether CBS' commitment to sports would stay as strong. It did. Ianniello also is a sports fan -- a season-ticket holder to the Jets, I’m told. In less than a year, Ianniello has developed close ties with top CBS Sports execs Sean McManus and David Berson and has become an advocate for the division. McManus has been with CBS since 1996; Berson since 2011. They have impeccable reputations and some of the strongest relationships in the business.
- Even in the unlikely event that Ianniello does not accept the job, it’s hard to envision that his replacement would make significant changes to sports department. Every TV exec these days views sports as a huge priority -- one that delivers ratings and ad dollars better than any other genre on TV. A combined CBS-Viacom would have deeper pockets and more channels, which will lead to more promotional resources and younger viewers.
DAZN ADDS DEIRDRE FENTON TO BOOST DOCUMENTARY EFFORTS
- DAZN has hired Deirdre Fenton from ESPN to help build out its documentary business. Fenton, who will be director of original programming production, will report to Exec VP/Content Jamie Horowitz. She starts tomorrow. DAZN is using original programming as a way to retain subscribers between boxing cards, with series like “40 Days,” which profiles fighters before their bouts and has used celebrities like LeBron James, Meek Mill and Mark Wahlberg as executive producers. Part of Fenton’s role will be to expand that effort. She’s been part of ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary team since its 2009 launch.
- It took a 10-week courtship to convince Fenton to move from an established media company to an up-and-comer. Back in June, Horowitz bumped into Fenton by chance near ESPN’s Manhattan offices at the corner of 62nd and Broadway. The two knew each other from when Horowitz worked at ESPN. They had not seen each other since he left in 2014. As Fenton got closer to taking DAZN’s offer, Horowitz reached out to ESPN Exec VP/Content Connor Schell to make sure he was supportive of the move. ESPNers gathered last week at the popular Manhattan watering hole Medi Wine Bar to toast their now former colleague.
NBC CONTINUES BETTING BIG ON PREMIER LEAGUE
- As NBC Sports prepares to kick off its seventh EPL season this week, network execs are counting on having higher-quality games funnel to the broadcast network. That’s thanks to the fact that NBC’s corporate sibling, Sky, holds the rights to that 12:30pm ET window that NBC uses for these games and will be more likely than last year’s rightsholder, BT, to have better games in that window. The EPL also added another window that NBCSN will use at 2:45pm ET -- primetime in the U.K. -- which should bring more good games to the schedule and allow NBC Sports to produce quadruple headers about eight times this season.
- Another change: NBCSN’s Sunday morning prematch show will be expanded from one hour to two. When the EPL decided to move its Sunday game times back by 30 minutes -- to 9:00am ET and 11:30am ET -- NBCSN responded by scheduling its prematch show to run from 7:00-9:00am. NBC also is committed to make more content available via its NBC Sports Gold streaming service and NBC Sports’ YouTube channel.
- NBC Sports is coming off two consecutive seasons of viewership growth for its EPL coverage. A strong Championship Sunday in May led to a 4% season-over-season gain (457,000 vs. 449,000 viewers). The viewership for the EPL remains well ahead of MLS on domestic TV, but is still well behind the 1.1 million viewers that Univision's networks averaged for coverage of Liga MX during the 2018-19 campaign.
- Sports media stocks took a beating today along with the rest of the financial markets. The Dow posted its worst day of 2019, dropping 760 points. Companies with ties to sports media: Comcast (-2.4%); Fox (-1.5%); AT&T (-2.0%); Disney (-2.4%); Amazon (-3.2%); WWE (-4.7%); Twitter (-5.8%); Snap (-3.4%); Facebook (-3.9%); CBS (-2.7%); MSG Networks (-0.8%); Sinclair (-0.9%); Charter (-1.3%); Dish Network (-1.4%).
- The PGA Tour is listening to offers for its next media rights deal, but for now, the odds are with the incumbent networks (CBS, NBC and Golf Channel) to keep those rights when the existing deals expire in 2021.
- I never met Don Banks. But I was struck by the tributes other reporters had for their colleague. Peter King was a longtime teammate with Banks at Sports Illustrated, and his NBCSports.com column today is worth a click. One particular line stood out: “Friends are fleeting in this business. It’s competitive, and there are jealousies, and you’re lucky if you have four or five really good ones. Don was one of those for me.” See more Twitter reaction for Banks in today's SBD.
- Callaway Media Productions Executive Producer Jeff Neubarth has a nice side hustle -- working with Fox on their golf TV coverage. Appearing on the “No Laying Up” podcast, Neubarth shed light on what attracted him to Fox back in 2015 as the network looked to take on CBS and NBC in the golf space: “This isn’t a knock on [CBS’ Lance Barrow and NBC’s Tommy Roy.] We haven’t had a lot of change and turnover in golf, and I don’t know if that’s good or not. ... For years and years golf has been broadcast from the green to the tee. Everything has been broadcast in reverse. [Fox Exec Producer Mark Loomis'] message back at Chambers Bay was, ‘We are going to cover golf the way people play golf.’ We have more hand-held cameras, we have more tracer. That ability to go from tee to green was the philosophical shift that golf hadn’t seen.” Speaking of "No Laying Up," check out my piece in SBJ this week about the up-and-comers landing new representation with The Montag Group to accelerate growth.
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