After more than a year, longtime Philly sports talker and broadcaster Rob Ellis is returning to television.
Ellis, who hasn’t appeared on TV since NBC Sports Philadelphia declined to renew his contract last year, will co-host a new sports betting show called Odds On on CBS3 alongside sports anchor Pat Gallen. The new show will air at 8:30 a.m. on Sundays, starting this weekend.
Ellis, who spent 17 years at NBC Sports Philadelphia (the bulk of it while the network was still known as Comcast SportsNet), will continue his hosting duties on 94.1 WIP, which lately has found him filling in overnight for Big Daddy Graham, who is recovering from spinal cord surgery.
Since sports gambling was made legal in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the amount of programming devoted to placing bets on games has exploded, both nationally and in the Philadelphia area.
Fox29 airs Props and Locks on Thursday nights, hosted by former Eagles linebacker Garry Cobb, Fox 29 sports anchor Scott Grayson, and FOX Bet gambling expert Todd Fuhrman. NBC Sports Philadelphia has experimented with both studio shows and alternative broadcasts during live games that feature wagering information, and airs a simulcast of The Daily Line on NBC Sports Philadelphia+. Crossing Broad’s Kyle Scott has pivoted to offer more content geared toward sports betting, and former 97.5 The Fanatic host Sean Brace launched a new radio network — 102.5 The Gambler — focused on sports betting.
So how will Odds On stand out?
“You have two guys hosting with personality,” Ellis said, adding that the show would be “conversational” and the two hosts won’t simply be spewing out numbers for 30 minutes. “It’s a good back and forth between Pat and I that is relatable.”
According to Ellis, the plan is for the show to at least run through the end of the NFL season, though one source said it could extend into April, through the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio gets new gig
Sal Pal is moving from the sideline to the booth, at least for one game.
As part of a contract extension announced Friday, ESPN is letting longtime NFL reporter Sal Paolantonio spread his wings by calling Sunday’s Giants-Jets game nationally for ESPN radio. It’ll be Paolantonio’s first time calling a game from the booth, where he’ll be joined by play-by-play announcer Marc Kestecher and sideline reporter Ben Hartsock.
As a result, you won’t see Paolantonio showing up on Sunday NFL Countdown this weekend or doing spots on SportsCenter — his attention will be fully committed to calling a game where the two teams have a combined record of 3-14. If all goes well, listeners will likely hear Paolantonio call more games down the road.
“The plan and hope is to several games a year, [and] an Eagles game for sure,” Paolantonio said.
Paolantonio has been with ESPN since 1995, mostly covering the Eagles. He also hosts NFL Matchup, the longest-running football program on television. Prior to joining ESPN, he covered politics and later the Eagles for The Inquirer, and for several years he helped mold up-and-coming journalists as an English professor at St. Joseph’s University.
• Still no word on why Fox Sports suddenly parted ways with Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter on Thursday. One source said Carter was escorted out of the network’s headquarters in New York City Thursday by security, but we don’t know much about what went on behind the scenes.
Former linebacker Chris Canty has replaced Carter, at least temporarily, while co-hosts Nick Wright and Jenna Wolfe have not made a single on-air comment about their former colleague. Carter has not responded to a request for comment.
“The show remains a priority for FS1 and FOX Sports overall,” Fox Sports said in a statement.
• Paolantonio isn’t the only former Inquirer reporter ESPN blessed with a new contract. The network re-signed outspoken First Take host Stephen A. Smith to a massive multi-year deal reportedly worth at least $8 million annually. That makes Smith the network’s highest-paid talent.
• CBS has nabbed the English-language rights to the UEFA Champions League from Turner Sports, Sports Business Daily reported Friday. The new three-year deal will begin in 2021, and reportedly shocked insiders who weren’t aware CBS was interested in acquiring the rights to the popular soccer league.
• Great moment by longtime ESPN college football analyst and booster Lee Corso, who joked about his own deficiencies as a broadcaster with colleague Kirk Herbstreit: “I’m 84-years-old. I had a stroke. I can’t hear. I can’t write. I can’t talk. ... I’m still on television!”