It’s going to be busy weekend in Philadelphia for ESPN, with the sports network covering three big sporting events across town back-to-back-to-back.
On Saturday, ESPN will begin at the Wells Fargo Center for UFC Fight Night, headlined by a lightweight bout between Edson Barboza and former World Series of Fighting champ, Justin Gaethje. Preliminary coverage begins on ESPN at 5 p.m., with the main card following at 7 p.m. Calling the action is play-by-play announcer Jon Anik, with color provided by former UFC bantamweight champion Dominik Cruz and UFC reigning heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.
ESPN will also be at 2300 arena in South Philadelphia Saturday night for Top Rank Boxing, which features Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk making the first defense of his world title against Doudou Ngumbu. The co-feature includes Philadelphia native “The New” Ray Robinson taking on Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas.
The two fights will air live on ESPN at 10 p.m. while the undercard (which includes an appearance by Philadelphia-born heavyweight prospect Sonny Conto) will stream live on ESPN+ beginning at 6:30 p.m. Calling the fight will be Monday Night Football play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore, featuring analysis by First Take co-host Max Kellerman along with Mark Kreigel, Andre Ward and Tim Bradley.
Then on Sunday night, ESPN heads over to Citizens Bank Park to kick off its 30th season of Sunday Night Baseball, featuring the final game in the Phillies’ season-opening series against the Atlanta Braves (and Bryce Harper’s Phillies debut on the network).
The game will start at 7 p.m. (mercifully moved up an hour from last year) and features a return of last year’s broadcast team — Matt Vasgersian, Jessica Mendoza and Alex Rodriguez, with Buster Onley reporting from the stadium.
“We can’t wait to see how the passionate Philly fans react to Bryce Harper’s Sunday Night Baseball debut with the Phillies,” ESPN Senior Vice President Mark Gross told the Inquirer. "We strongly feel we have the best teams in the business — both in front of the camera and behind it — and we’re well-equipped to deliver these three events to give fans a memorable weekend.”
The Phillies’ Opening Day win against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday drew monster ratings on NBC10, in what is likely the least surprising news story of the day.
Thursday’s Phillies win, featuring a somewhat-underwhelming debut of new superstar slugger Bryce Harper, delivered a 10.1 household rating (over 284,000 households) and a 27 share on NBC10, a 101 percent jump over last year’s Opening Day broadcast and well above what The Ellen DeGeneres Show and NBC 10 News normally draw during the same time slot.
NBC Sports Philadelphia shattered previous streaming records on Thursday, accumulated nearly 37,000 unique viewers and over 2 million total minutes watched, according to numbers provided by the network. Compared to Opening Day last year, those are increases of 130 percent and 101 percent, respectively.
94.1 WIP did not immediately have radio ratings for Thursday’s game.
• NBC Sports Philadelphia announced on Thursday that former Phillies All-Star Jimmy Rollins will join the network’s baseball broadcasts as a color analyst for a handful of games this season. Rollins first appearance in the booth will be on April 22, when the Phillies take on the Mets at Citi Field.
• Charles Barkley came close to announcing Thursday night’s NCAA Tournament matchup between Michigan and Texas Tech after a power outage cut off audio on CBS from Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner. Unfortunately, the Hall of Famer didn’t get a chance to enter the broadcast, as studio host Greg Gumbel did most of the heavy lifting before Harlan returned a few minutes later.
• The Boston Celtics are being criticized for reportedly banning a fan for just a season and a half after calling Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins the “n-word” in TD Garden back in January. For sake of comparison, Jazz owner Gail Miller permanently banned two fans who taunted Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook in Utah this season. But one or two people at Citizens Bank Park booed Harper on Thursday, so Philadelphia obviously has the worst fans.
• Great job here by WNEP reporter and Temple grad Chase Senior just going with the flow outside Citizens Bank Park on Thursday: