College football matchups, NBA draft plans headline ESPN presentation


Four major matchups for the coming college football season and the NBA draft airing on both ESPN and ABC were announced Tuesday by ESPN as part of its presentation to advertisers in New York.

The Labor Day weekend game between Florida State and LSU will air on ABC for the second straight season. The night game on Sunday, Sept. 3, will take place this season in Orlando, Florida. The Seminoles won last year’s game in New Orleans 24-23 on a blocked extra point in the final seconds.

Alabama will host Texas on Sept. 9 in a game airing on ESPN. The Crimson Tide rallied for a 20-19 victory last season on the road.

ABC again will have the Red River Rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma from Dallas on Oct. 7 as well as Notre Dame’s game at Clemson on Nov. 4.

“College football is a huge part of our DNA and one of our top priorities year after year,” ESPN Chairman James Pitaro said. “Making sure that we have a compelling schedule is incredibly important to us. As we sit here today, I feel really good about what we’re looking at for the fall.”

ESPN’s unveiling of some games follows Fox’s announcement that it will have Deion Sanders’ first game as Colorado coach on Sept. 2 as well as Ohio State at Michigan on Nov. 25.

For the third straight year, both ESPN and ABC will carry the NBA draft, which will take place on June 22 in New York.

ESPN, which has had the draft since 2003, again will have Malika Andrews as the host while the ABC broadcast of the first round will feature Kevin Negandhi and Stephen A. Smith. The ABC presentation will be similar to its approach during the NFL draft, where the focus is more on storytelling and features instead of X’s and O’s.

The ESPN presentation is one part of the Walt Disney Company’s entire program for advertisers on Tuesday. ESPN and other networks owned by Disney used to separate programs before the move to a combined company presentation a couple of years ago.

“I feel really good about this approach. I suppose it made sense at the time several years ago when we had them separate. But today, it definitely makes far more sense to do this as one presentation,” Pitaro said.

Rita Ferro, president of Disney advertising sales and partnerships, also noted the move from eight different events to one stemmed from a demand from advertisers to do fewer big events.

The presentation comes amid layoffs taking place throughout the Walt Disney Company, including ESPN. Disney CEO Bob Iger announced in February that the company would reduce 7,000 jobs either through attrition or layoffs.

ESPN went through the first of two rounds of reductions last month. There also will be a round of cuts involving on-air talent happening over the summer via contracts not being renewed, buyouts or cuts.

“It has been a tough period, the past few weeks. I think folks are looking forward to getting through this month and regrouping,” Pitaro said. “We’re operating in a world where fewer households are subscribing to traditional television. That puts pressure on the business.”

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