Behind the Mic: Jim Nantz To Stay at CBS Under New Deal, Fox Sports Gets Set for 2021 MLB Season With Deep On-Air Team
Behind the Mic provides a roundup of recent news regarding on-air talent, including new deals, departures, and assignments compiled from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, Jim Nantz will stay at CBS on a new Fox Sports reveals its MLB broadcast teams for the 2021 season, ESPN and ABC reveal their on-air teams for the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland, and more.
Jim Nantz Stays at CBS With New Deal
Jim Nantz will be staying at CBS. According to SportsBusiness Journal’s John Ourand, the network’s top announcer signed a new deal to stay at the network for an undisclosed number of years, according to both CBS Sports and Nantz’s agent Sandy Montag.
During his 35-year run at CBS, Nantz has developed into the network’s top voice on the NFL, golf including The Masters and college basketball. Nantz has been open about his desire to remain the voice of the Masters, specifically, for at least another decade. (SportsBusiness Journal)
Fox Sports Names Starting Lineup for 2021 Major League Baseball Regular Season
Fox Sports takes the field for its 26th season of Major League Baseball coverage with Judy Boyd, Senior Vice President of Remote Production, and Kent Camera, Senior Vice President of Studio Production, delivering the lineup card for the 2021 Fox MLB roster of on-air announcers and analysts.
The network’s lead broadcast duo of Emmy Award-winning announcer Joe Buck and first-ballot Hall of Famer John Smoltz team with two-time Emmy Award-winning reporter Ken Rosenthal as the 2020 NL East champion Atlanta Braves travel to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies Saturday, April 3, at 4:00 PM ET on FS1. In the second half of the division-matchup doubleheader, veteran broadcaster Adam Amin and 1992 NL Rookie of the Year Eric Karros call the action when the 2020 World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Colorado Rockies at 8:00 PM ET on FS1.
Throughout the season, announcers Kevin Burkhardt, Joe Davis, Aaron Goldsmith, and Len Kasper are joined by World Series catcher A.J. Pierzynski and Emmy Award-winning reporter Tom Verducci in contributing to Fox MLB game coverage.
In the Fox Sports studio, Burkhardt and Karros are joined by versatile host Chris Myers, World Series champion pitcher Dontrelle Willis, and Hall of Famer Frank Thomas for select events. Burkhardt, Willis, and Thomas are at the desk for Saturday’s pregame at 3:00 PM ET on FS1.
World Series champions Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz join the studio for special events and Fox’s coverage of the MLB Postseason.
Award-winning feature reporter Tom Rinaldi makes his Fox MLB debut with an essay on the promise of renewal that comes with Opening Day during Saturday’s pregame.
Set to broadcast a network record of more than 40 MLB games this regular season, Fox Deportes opens this season’s coverage simultaneously on Saturday, April 3 as veteran baseball broadcasters Carlos Alvarez and Jaime Motta call the NL East matchup between the Braves and Phillies at 4:00 PM ET. Later that evening, the network’s lead baseball duo of renowned play-by-play announcer Adrian Garcia Marquez and former MLB infielder and Mexico National Team manager Edgar Gonzalez bring viewers the Dodgers vs. Rockies at 8:00 PM ET. (Fox Sports)
ESPN and ABC Announce Commentator Teams for the 2021 NFL Draft in Cleveland
The Walt Disney Company’s team of veteran hosts, analysts, and insiders will present the 2021 NFL Draft live coast-to-coast from Cleveland beginning Thursday, April 29, at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on ESPN and ABC. For the third consecutive year, ESPN and ABC will provide distinct prime-time presentations on Day 1 and 2. ESPN will again offer the traditional draft telecast – a combination of X’s and O’s analysis, player highlights and storytelling – while ABC, featuring the eleven-time Sports Emmy Award-winning College GameDay Built by The Home Depot crew, will cover the event with an emphasis on the individual journeys of NFL Draft prospects.
On ESPN, Mike Greenberg will debut as host mere months ahead of his 25th company anniversary. Greenberg will lead ESPN’s 42nd NFL Draft on Day 1 and 2 with senior NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., covering his 38th draft, and NFL analysts Louis Riddick, his seventh, and Booger McFarland, his third. ESPN’s event coverage will also feature Senior NFL Insiders Chris Mortensen, covering his 31st draft, and Adam Schefter, his 12th, and NFL host Suzy Kolber, who will cover the event for the 18th year and interview draftees.
On ABC, 25-year company veteran Rece Davis, who recently signed an ESPN extension, and Maria Taylor, a leading voice across college sports and on NBA Countdown, will co-host the prime-time broadcasts on Day 1 and 2. Davis will cover the event with college football analysts Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard, returning for their fourth draft, and senior NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay, his 12th. From a nearby set, Taylor, covering her fourth draft, will anchor with college football analyst and third-year draft commentator Jesse Palmer. College football analyst David Pollack, returning for his fourth draft, will also provide insights alongside his College GameDay teammates.
On Day 3, Davis will host the 2021 NFL Draft on ESPN and ABC with Kiper, McShay, Riddick, Mortensen, and Schefter.
On ESPN Radio, Dari Nowkhah will host with NFL Front Office Insider Mike Tannenbaum, ESPN Radio’s Bart Scott (Day 1 and 2), NFL Draft analyst Jim Nagy (Day 3), and reporter Ian Fitzsimmons.
On ESPN Deportes, Eduardo Varela and Pablo Viruega will provide event coverage in Spanish. (ESPN)
Legendary Fox Sports Broadcaster Dick Stockton To Retire After Illustrious 55-Year Career
Dick Stockton, acclaimed Fox Sports play-by-play announcer and one of the most iconic voices in sports broadcasting history, is retiring after an illustrious 55-year TV career that encompassed at least 1,545 network television games across the big four professional sports leagues in the U.S. — NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL — more than any American sports broadcaster ever.
Stockton, whose signature voice transcended not only sports genres but generations of fans, joined Fox Sports in 1994 and has been with the network ever since, serving as play-by-play announcer for NFL, MLB and college basketball.
The Fox Sports linchpin steps away from fulltime broadcasting after celebrating his 27th year of NFL on Fox in 2020, with 714 NFL games to his credit, the second-most of any. He has worked with and mentored nearly every single NFL analyst who has risen through the Fox Sports ranks.
Stockton’s outstanding work earned multiple awards and recognition over the years, most recently with the announcement he was voted into the National Sports Media Association’s Hall of Fame as a first balloter. Stockton’s accolades also include: the 2001 Curt Gowdy Electronic Media Award from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame; a CableAce nomination for his NBA work for TNT in 1997; and the prestigious Sonny Hirsch Excellence in Sports Broadcasting Award in 2016, named after the longtime voice of the Miami Hurricanes and honoring an outstanding sports broadcaster who has had a major impact in their field, while making notable accomplishments within the community. Additionally, Stockton was named one of the top-50 network sportscasters of all time by the American Sportscasters Association in 2009.
Considered one of the most versatile broadcasters in history, Stockton’s vast resume includes 17 years at CBS Sports and 19 years covering the NBA Playoffs for Turner Sports, in addition to a play-by-play role for TBS’ coverage of MLB postseason. Stockton also served as Turner Sports’ voice for regular season and NBA playoff games from 1995-2013. He called a total of 617 NBA games, the fourth-most for a play-by-play announcer.
Prior to joining Fox, Stockton worked for CBS Sports, calling a variety of sports including the NFL, NBA (lead play-by-play from 1982-‘90), MLB and college basketball (lead play-by-play for NCAA Regional Finals), in addition to the World Swimming and Diving Championships, championship boxing, track and field, the Pan American Games and the Olympic Games. Earlier in his career, NBC tapped him to cover NFL games and NCAA tournament basketball. Furthermore, he called play-by-play for Oakland A’s games for KRON-TV in San Francisco.
He also was assigned the Winter Olympics Men’s Skiing events in France in 1992 and the 1994 Norway Games’ speed-skating events for CBS. In the latter capacity, Stockton called the Gold Medal-winning performances by speed skaters Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair, moments he considers among the highlights of his career.
Stockton also called six Super Bowls for the NFL Network’s international broadcast between 2002 and 2008, beginning with the Patriots’ upset of the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI alongside Fox NFL analyst Daryl “Moose” Johnston. Stockton teamed with Johnston four times, and Fox Sports lead NFL analyst Troy Aikman and Sterling Sharpe once each for the international broadcast. (Fox Sports)
Drew Brees Officially Joins NBC Sports
Drew Brees, one of the greatest players in NFL history, is joining NBC Sports as a studio analyst for Football Night in America and as a game analyst for its coverage of Notre Dame Football. Brees will also work on many of NBC Sports’ biggest events, including the Olympics and Super Bowl LVI.
During a 20-year NFL career as quarterback with the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers, Brees amassed an unprecedented collection of records, milestones and accolades, both on and off the field. He led the Saints to victory in Super Bowl XLIV and was named the game’s MVP. He was selected to 13 Pro Bowls, won two Offensive Player of the Year awards, is the NFL’s all-time leader with 80,358 career passing yards, ranks second all-time with 571 career passing touchdowns and shattered the league record with a touchdown pass in 54 consecutive games.
Brees has been just as prolific off the field. He and his wife, Brittany, established the Brees Dream Foundation in 2003, which has contributed more than $45 million to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients and provide care, education and opportunities for children and families in need. In 2006, Brees won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, one of the league’s highest honors that recognizes a player for his excellence on and off the field. (NBC Sports)
ESPN Emphasizes Commitment to Journalism with Re-Signing of Versatile Reporter John Barr to Multiyear Contract Extension
Emphasizing its commitment to quality journalism, ESPN has re-signed award-winning reporter John Barr to a multiyear contract extension that will include expanded reporting duties across ESPN platforms.
Barr, who is based in the Philadelphia area and joined ESPN in 2003, will continue as part of ESPN’s Enterprise Unit, covering breaking news, investigative and human interest stories for ESPN.com, Outside the Lines and E60. In addition, as part of his expanded duties, Barr will work with ESPN’s bureau group on stories for SportsCenter and other ESPN platforms. (ESPN)
Stephen Nelson Named New Co-Host of MLB Network’s Intentional Talk
Stephen Nelson has been named the new co-host of MLB Network’s Intentional Talk presented by loanDepot. Nelson, who has guest co-hosted since joining MLB Network in 2018, joined Kevin Millar in his official role on Thursday, March 25 at 7:00 p.m. ET.
Nelson has hosted studio shows across MLB Network’s programming the last three seasons, including on The Rundown, MLB Now, Intentional Talk, and MLB Tonight. Nelson has also called play-by-play for MLB Network Showcase, MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube, and the 2018 Japan All-Star Series for MLB International. Nelson joined MLB Network from Bleacher Report, where he served as a studio and field host covering a wide variety of sports. (MLB Network)
ESPN Re-Signs Major League Baseball National Reporter Marly Rivera to Multi-Year Extension
ESPN has re-signed MLB National Reporter Marly Rivera to a multi-year extension. Rivera, who has been with ESPN since 2011, will serve as a reporter on ESPN’s national weeknight MLB game telecasts and studio programming such as SportsCenter. She will also be a regular contributor to various ESPN Radio shows, podcasts and digital platforms, and remain part of ESPN’s international programming.
Known for her extensive connections and outstanding access to players and teams, Rivera has provided in-depth coverage of all major sports in New York for close to two decades, with a focus on Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees. Most recently, Rivera has been a key reporter throughout ESPN’s 2021 spring training coverage. She also has covered a variety of cornerstone MLB events including the historic 2016 exhibition game in Havana, Cuba and the 2015 “Roberto Clemente Day.” In 2018, Rivera was a field reporter for ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball game at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in her hometown of San Juan, Puerto Rico. She also contributed to ESPN’s 2019 Home Run Derby coverage. (ESPN)
Seven-Time Emmy Award Winner Alanna Rizzo Rejoins MLB Network
Seven-time Emmy Award winner Alanna Rizzo has rejoined MLB Network’s roster of on-air personalities. Beginning on Friday, April 2, Rizzo will serve as a regular contributor to High Heat with Christopher Russo presented by Liberty Mutual, weekdays live at 1:00 p.m. ET. Rizzo will provide news and commentary on the latest MLB storylines during High Heat, which is in its eighth year on the air. Following two seasons with MLB Network from 2012 through 2013, Rizzo spent the last seven seasons as an in-game reporter and host for SportsNet LA’s coverage of the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
As part of the original broadcast team for SportsNet LA’s launch in 2014, Rizzo covered the Dodgers’ three trips to the World Series in 2017, 2018 and 2020. For her SportsNet LA work, Rizzo most recently won the 2020 Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association’s TV Reporter Award. Prior to SportsNet LA, Rizzo contributed across MLB Network’s studio and on-site programming, including Intentional Talk, Quick Pitch, the 2012 MLB All-Star Game and the 2013 MLB All-Star Game. Rizzo’s baseball broadcast career began with ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain, where she served as an in-game reporter and host for its coverage of the Colorado Rockies. (MLB Network)
Multi-Platform Host & Reporter Charly Arnolt Joins ESPN Full Time as Part of Multi-Year Contract Extension
Multi-platform host and reporter Charly Arnolt will be joining ESPN on a full-time basis beginning in early April as part of a new, multi-year contract extension with the network. Arnolt – who recently launched the weekly ESPN Podcast First Take, Her Take alongside Kimberley A. Martin and Chiney Ogwumike – will continue to have a significant role across many of the network’s other signature brands as well.
In addition to First Take, Her Take, Arnolt will continue to contribute to select editions of ESPN’s morning debate show First Take and the network’s signature news and information show, SportsCenter. Arnolt will regularly appear on ESPN+’s weekday morning show, SportsNation along with other digital shows across the industry-leading sports streaming service as well. (ESPN)
Showtime Sports and Bellator MMA Announce Telecast Team for Friday, April 2 Debut
Showtime Sports and Bellator MMA have set the announce team for the promotion’s debut on the premium television network, Showtime, on Friday, April 2 at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. Veteran play-by-play announcer Mauro Ranallo will host the series and call the action alongside MMA’s most famous referee-turned analyst “Big” John McCarthy. Additional analysis and reporting will be provided by MMA sportscaster and television personality Jenn Brown and former STRIKEFORCE world champion Josh Thomson with special guest contributions from Bellator’s undefeated featherweight contender A.J. McKee.
With over 35 years of sportscasting experience, Ranallo has provided the audio track for many of the most iconic moments in combat sports history. Lending his voice to a variety of combats sports and entertainment events including WWE, NJPW, PRIDE FC, STRIKEFORCE and Showtime Championship Boxing, along with Bellator Kickboxing and Bellator MMA, Ranallo has proven to be one of the most versatile, prolific and knowledgeable broadcasters in sports.
There are few people in the world with more “cage time” than John McCarthy. The world-renowned referee stepped out of the cage and into the Bellator announcers’ booth in 2018, bringing with him an intricate level of knowledge as both a former referee and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. McCarthy also possesses a strong understanding of the Unified Rules of MMA, considering he was a huge contributor to their creation.
Triller Fight Club Assembles All-Star Commentator Team for Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren on April 17
The broadcast group that will call the inaugural Triller Fight Club 2021 event on April 17 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will include SNL star Pete Davidson, media personality and host of NBC’s Access Hollywood Mario Lopez, supermodel Taylor Hill, and internet stars Dixie and Charli D’Amelio. They will join Triller Fight Club co-owner Snoop Dogg as well as veteran boxing voices Ray Flores, Al Bernstein, and Mike Coppinger creating an unprecedented commentating team for the event.
Emmy-winning filmmaker Bert Marcus (Netflix’s critically acclaimed The American Meme, HBO’s Emmy award-winning The Apollo and recent Cannes-lauded Bull) is leading Triller’s re-imagining of boxing as a new kind of cinematic entertainment. Along with Marcus, executive producer Malea Rose will also oversee and execute Triller Fight Club’s overall creative vision. (PR Newswire)