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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Tuned In: Shannon Sharpe, Undisputed YouTube Champ, One-Ups Skip Bayless

  • Club Shay Shay and Nightcap have Sharpe on top of his old co-host.
  • Also: CBS is rolling out Doink Cams for Super Bowl LVIII.
Shannon Sharpe
Syndication: Savannah Morning News

After helping ESPN’s First Take build a big lead over FS1’s rival Undisputed, Shannon Sharpe is one-upping ex-partner Skip Bayless once again. On Thursday, Sharpe’s hit YouTube show, Club Shay Shay, passed Bayless’s Undisputed in terms of YouTube subscribers. 

The three-time Super Bowl champion’s weekly show now boasts 2.6 million subscribers, versus 2.59 million for Bayless. Separately, Sharpe’s new Nightcap podcast with Chad Johnson now has 954,000 subscribers, against 158,000 for The Skip Bayless Show.

Between ESPN and Club Shay Shay, it’s been a comeback year for Sharpe. His Jan. 3 interview with comedian Katt Williams, controversial as it was, almost broke the internet, generating 57 million views and counting on YouTube. (During that wild interview, Williams torched various Hollywood comics and celebrities—and afterward it became fodder for NBC’s Saturday Night Live.)

The 55-year old Sharpe owns and operates Club Shay Shay through his production company, Shay Shay Media. In August, he moved his show to Colin Cowherd’s podcasting platform, The Volume

Sharpe has been on a redemption tour since Bayless pushed him out the door in 2023, after six years together on Undisputed. This summer, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith pursued the free agent to become a guest debater on First Take, and from his first appearance in September, Sharpe’s chemistry with Smith and Molly Qerim clicked. 

With 1.5 million viewers on Martin Luther King Day, that weekday morning show drew the biggest audience in its 16-year history, and First Take has maintained its highest audience ever in 2023, averaging 496,000 viewers. In the fall, Smith and Sharpe proudly brought the show on the road to their respective HBCU alma maters: Smith’s Winston-Salem State and Sharpe’s Savannah State.

In short order, Sharpe has made himself Smith’s heir apparent at First Take. Further, Sharpe, Smith, Cowherd, and Pat McAfee all own their production companies and YouTube shows, giving them more leverage than previous on-air talents. 

Sharpe’s current hot streak is a far cry from his failed early sports media career, when he lost his job on The NFL Today, in 2010, then wandered in the wilderness for six years before Bayless saved his career. 

As Sharpe told Complex, after it named him its No. 1 Most Entertaining Media Personality: “If somebody would have told me when I got back into this business, in 2016, this was going to be the ascension that I had, I wouldn’t have believed it. I was just happy that someone threw me a lifeline and gave me an opportunity to get back on television.”

Smile, You’re On Doink Cam

Every year, Super Bowl broadcasters pull out all the stops technology-wise for the country’s most-watched TV show. But few innovations have generated more curiosity than CBS Sports’s new “Doink Cams,” which will be installed for Super Bowl LVIII. The network is embedding six 4K cameras inside the two goalposts at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas (take a peek here), promising “unprecedented” new angles of flying footballs.  

Here’s how they’ll work: Each set of uprights will feature three cameras. Two on each side will film the field at a 45 degree angle. The third will film horizontally, from post to post, allowing viewers to watch the ball cross the uprights. Similar to “Pylon-Cams” they feature high-resolution zoom.

The goalpost cameras are the brainchild of CBS production executives Jason Cohen and Mike Francis, who were sitting behind the uprights at Super Bowl LVII last year when Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker banged a 42-year field goal try off the goalpost. “We looked at each other at the same time, and we’re like, ‘Oh, my God,’ and, you know, quickly reached out to the NFL and said, ‘Hey, [we] have an idea,’ ” Cohen, CBS’s vice president of remote technical operations, told reporters this week. 

The NFL gave the green light, on the condition that the cameras don’t compromise the integrity of the goalposts. So CBS drew up some schematics and asked sideline reporter Jay Feely, a former placekicker, for advice on placement before testing them at two games this season, including one at Allegiant.

All told, CBS will deploy 165 cameras for its record 22nd Super Bowl. “Obviously, if we get a doink, we’ll all be very excited and probably high-five each other in the truck,” Cohen said.

Mike Drops

Kevin Hart, a huge sports fan, will bring his Cold As Balls talk show—where he interviews athletes like Odell Beckham Jr., Draymond Green, and Candace Parker from an ice bath—live to Las Vegas for Super Bowl week, setting up shop at Resorts World Las Vegas on Feb. 8 and 9. Guests have yet to be revealed. … CBS’s main broadcast team of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, and Tracy Wolfon is poised to call its third Super Bowl together in seven years. James Brown of The NFL Today will host the Super Bowl pregame show for a record 11th time. … CBS is “officially sold out” of advertising time for both the main Super Bowl telecast and its kids-driven simulcast on Nickelodeon, according to chairman Sean McManus. The network is reaping “hundreds of millions” in ad dollars, said the retiring McManus, who declined to give specifics.

—Michael McCarthy’s “Tuned In” column is at your fingertips every week with the latest insights and ongoings around sports media. If he hears it, you will too.

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