Could ESPN Steal Andy Gray From Sky Sports?

espn-logo.gifModern day football coverage is such that the commentators don’t even need to be in the stadiums anymore. ESPN’s Euro 2008 commentators are all huddled in Bristol, Connecticut. Most TWI commentators, meanwhile, broadcast Premier League games out of their studios in west London.

With the world being a much smaller place today plus with the global popularity of the Premier League, this opens up opportunities for football commentators who are interested in working overseas. Gone is the need for commentators to work from the actual stadiums.

What this does is open up mouthwatering possibilities. Imagine if ESPN was to capture the rights to Premier League coverage when it next comes up for bid in the United States.

It’s entirely possible that the American broadcaster would attempt to sign Andy Gray as their lead co-commentator and pundit. When it comes down to it, most people have a price tag and ESPN could be willing to sign Gray to a long-term contract in the future if it makes business sense.

At the same time, if ESPN offered most of the top football commentators in England a chance to live and work in the United States and make more money, many of them would jump at the chance. All it would take is someone like Andy Gray to lead the way and many top broadcast professionals would follow.

Don’t believe it? The last time I spoke with a Premier League commentator at TWI, he expressed his interest in working in the United States and asked that I keep an eye out for any opportunities.

For the exodus to happen, though, ESPN’s TV ratings for football will need to grow and advertisers would need to express an interest in sponsoring the Premier League. ESPN used to have the TV rights to the Premier League in the States, but a lot has changed since this happened. Could the timing be right for ESPN to get behind the EPL?

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12 thoughts on “Could ESPN Steal Andy Gray From Sky Sports?”

  1. Money isn’t the issue if they want to sign him. But, I think the more likely outcome is that ESPN bids for the TV rights in Britain, and then sign him.

  2. I read something a few months ago about ESPN talking to Setanta about buying them. It would give the Disney channel a huge foothold for their properties in Europe and….well, Setanta does own some EPL rights in North America. Should be interesting. Just remember, it was only a few years ago we were paying $20 to watch a fuzzy match on a TV in the corner of the pub….we’ve come a long way already.

  3. PZ: Just so you know, ESPN ended up walking away from Setanta, reportedly due to Setanta’s asking price.

    ESPN did, however, purchase the North American Sports Network (NASN) from Setanta in Europe last year, and is planning on rebranding that ESPN this fall.

  4. well, WHEN ESPN gets the Prem rights Gray and Rae well be lead broadcasters. I think at first ESPN will broadcast only a game of the week and it doesn’t mean Gray would have to cut his ties with Sky.

    I maybe old fashioned but I always find something lacking with the broadcaster in a studio. It will be important when ESPN makes the move to portray as much as possible of the feel of the game and a look around the stadium. I would expect a on the field reporter also.

    So, the question is when not if!

  5. Note that ESPN, Inc. does have a sales and programming syndication office located in the Hammersmith section of Greater London.

    If ESPN, Inc. were to get its hands on EPL in both the UK and the Americas in 2010, I expect ESPN to either establish a broadcast studio in Greater London, or to rent studio space from IMG Media in London, or to buy whatever studio space from Setanta once it runs out of money.

    That means the likes of Tommy Smyth may be asked by ESPN to “retire” (no chance he will move to the UK) while the likes of Healey and Rae may be asked to move across the Atlantic instead of being based in New England.

    As for Setanta: its fate is now pretty much sealed now that ESPN has decided to let Setanta suffer and twist in the wind. Setanta will contiune to lose money until ESPN outbids Setanta for every program of value that Setanta has.

  6. Before I moved to the States in the late 90’s, I used to watch the EPL on Sky Sports in England and I really did not like Andy Gray at all but this summer watching the Euro’s on ESPN I have changed my opinion on him as he has added so much to ESPN’s coverage. For a change they have someone who knows what they are talking about and calls things how he sees them.

  7. We get a bit flippant about Andy Gray over here in the UK, but I wouldn’t swap him and Martin Tyler for any other commentary team on UK TV.

  8. No chance. Not being in the stadium gives the commentary less credibility. Plus Sky bumped his wages up to £20k a week following the offer he turned down from Everton.

  9. Andy Gray from the Moon is better than Tommie Smith and Julie Foudy who are embarrasingly pathetic!!!ESPN should realize that commentators have to be at the game and not in a studio.They don’t seem to do this with NFL,NBA,etc.Stop being cheap like Fox Soccer Channel ,realize that football is taking off in the USA and fans here deserve the same treatment as other sports.

  10. Just be thankful they are showing the Euros.

    Being cheap isn’t it. We are talking about travel and lodging abroad at a time when the dollar is weak and oil prices are through the roof. It’s not the same as domestic travel for N. American sports, and these ratings while not terrible do not justify any sort of major expense.

    Football is taking off in the US?

    Yes maybe, but as I have said before the football taking off in the US is Latin football not European football and these ratings that have excited so many people here back up my point that by and large this is still a very very niche audience.

  11. Heh.. Fox Soccer Channel is cheap as hell. It's a shame. But ESPN will pick up the torch. Allen Hopkins needs to commentate games. He was wicked good when he was with Fox Sports World (FSC), but has been reduced to a lackey for whatever jock douchebags commentate MLS Thursday night.

  12. I just heard Andy Gray making some comments about the ref in the US vs. Slovenia game. We all agree that the call was awful. But it was not the first nor will it be the last. Referees make horrendous mistakes all the time particularly when they are under pressure such as in World Cup. But then, when a so called expert in football who claims he knows nothing about Malian football, goes on to criticize the whole nation, and all because of one bad call from a referee of that nation, I would say that his comments have gone beyond football and they could be motivated by other considerations. I heard no such comments from Mr. Andy Gray about Mexico’s first goal against France! Or is he over-extending himself to satisfy his employer? Mr. Gray, please check the list of the 16 nations that made it to the last African Cup of Nations, you will be surprised.

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