Behind the Mic: Keith Olbermann Back at ESPN; Actor Anthony Anderson To Host 2018 NBA Awards on TNT

Behind the Mic provides a roundup of recent news regarding on-air talent, including new deals, departures, and assignments compiled from press releases and reports around the industry. In this week’s edition, Keith Olbermann receives more responsibilities in another stint at ESPN, Anthony Anderson hosts the 2018 NBA Awards on TNT, Danica Patrick emcees the 2018 ESPYS, Poker Central appoints Ali NejadLon McEachern, and Norman Chad as the broadcast team of the World Series of Poker, ESPN hires Lindsey Thiry to cover the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and reassigns Alden Gonzalez to a new multimedia role, Ariel Helwani is pegged as ESPN’s newest reporter to their MMA initiative, Kate Abdo will head Turner and Bleacher Report’s involvement in the UEFA Champions League, and ESPN broadens reporting duties for Louis Riddick in addition to hiring John Fox as an analyst. 

Keith Olbermann guest co-hosting ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption

Keith Olbermann will expand his existing ESPN role by making additional appearances across ESPN platforms and programs in 2018 as part of a new agreement. Olbermann, who has contributed to various ESPN shows since January, will combine select studio assignments with on-site opportunities, including radio play-by-play. On SportsCenter, he will continue to develop regular features on timely and historical topics. Olbermann will also guest anchor approximately 20 special editions of the 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter throughout the year.

Olbermann will take on select MLB studio and game assignments, including play-by-play for a few games as well as a handful of studio hosting responsibilities on Baseball Tonight and cut-ins/highlights within game telecasts. Additionally, he will be on site at the MLB All-Star Game and hosting segments for SportsCenter. He will also host SportsCenter segments during the MLB post-season, including the World Series.

As he has done in recent weeks, Olbermann will co-host a handful of editions of PTI and will make guest appearances on Outside the Lines with host Bob Ley. Olbermann is expected to make appearances as both a guest host and a call-in guest on various ESPN Audio programs.

Prior to his latest ESPN role, which began in January, Olbermann hosted ESPN2’s daily series Olbermann from 2013 to 2015. He had other stints working for ESPN over the years, most notably as SportsCenter anchor from 1992 to 1997…

…Turner and the NBA announced that comedy and sports will collide as Anthony Anderson will take the helm as host for the 2018 NBA Awards on TNT presented by Kia airing Monday, June 25 with coverage beginning at 9 p.m. ET. This year’s event – presented live from historic Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. – will honor all of the league’s top performers from the 2017-18 NBA season including the exclusive unveiling of the Kia NBA MVP, Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Kia NBA Rookie of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement Award. Anderson’s career spans roles across film and television including the sitcom black-ish, the game show To Tell the Truth, Barbershop: the Next Cut, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Additionally, Inside the NBA studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal will be integrated throughout the show…

…The 2018 ESPYS Presented by Capital One will be hosted by motorsports pioneer Danica Patrick. The trailblazing racecar driver, who retired from racing following the Indianapolis 500, will be joined by top celebrities from sports and entertainment to commemorate the past year in sports by recognizing major sports achievements, reliving unforgettable moments, and saluting the leading performers and performances. The ESPYS will be broadcast live on ABC on Wednesday, July 18, at 8 p.m. ET from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Patrick has been a mainstay at the awards show over the years due to her successful career on the track, and somewhat unsurprisingly holds another record for most consecutive years in attendance by any athlete: 13…

…Poker Central revealed the broadcast talent for its World Series of Poker (WSOP) coverage, which will stream live on its OTT subscription platform PokerGO from June 2 – July 17. Long-time poker personality Ali Nejad — best known as the voice of Poker Central’s “Poker After Dark” — will anchor play-by-play duties throughout the bracelet events with guest play-by-play from the voice of the World Series of Poker, ESPN’s Lon McEachern. The team will also be joined by a rotating cast of color commentators, including longtime ESPN color commentator, Norman Chad, with additional names to be announced on an event-by-event basis…

…ESPN has hired reporter Lindsey Thiry to cover the Los Angeles Rams, while former NFL Nation team reporter Alden Gonzalez moves into a new multimedia reporter role. Thiry joins ESPN from the Los Angeles Times where she worked as a multimedia sports reporter the past four years — covering the Rams, Dodgers, Lakers, USC, and UCLA. Gonzalez has covered the Rams as an NFL Nation team reporter for ESPN since he joined the company in 2016. He has also contributed to editions of SportsCenter and ESPN’s NFL shows, written features across multiple sports for ESPN.com, and assisted with coverage of the NFL’s games in Mexico City….

…Award-winning mixed martial arts (MMA) journalist and host Ariel Helwani will join ESPN in June to cover the MMA world. Helwani will have several roles at ESPN —co-hosting Ariel & The Bad Guy, a new weekly MMA program on ESPN+, hosting an ongoing podcast Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show and reporting for MMA across ESPN digital media and television platforms. Helwani joins ESPN from SB Nation’s MMAFighting.com. He has been covering MMA professionally since 2006, is a six-time winner of “MMA Journalist of the Year” at the World MMA Awards, and a previous contributor to MMA coverage for Fox Sports and Sirius XM Radio. Ariel and The Bad Guy will team Helwani with professional fighter and ESPN MMA analyst Chael Sonnen for a fast-paced 30-minute weekly breakdown of the top stories, developments, and upcoming fights…

…Renowned soccer broadcaster Kate Abdo was announced as a studio host for Turner and Bleacher Report’s UEFA Champions League coverage, beginning with the upcoming 2018-19 season. Abdo will be the primary host for UEFA Champions League studio shows originating from Turner Studios in Atlanta, with studio coverage airing across Turner’s television networks (TBS, TNT, and/or truTV). Abdo brings a wealth of experience across the international stage — having previously covered soccer’s top events including UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, FIFA Men’s and Women’s World Cup, the English Premier League, England’s FA Cup, Germany’s Bundesliga, Spanish La Liga, and Italy’s Coppa Italia. She has also twice hosted the FIFA Ballon d’Or Awards. The popular and accomplished broadcaster currently serves as a studio host for Fox Sports’ soccer programming including the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia…

…Fox Sports announced that No. 4-ranked UFC middleweight Kelvin Gastelum and Brenadn Fitzgerald will make their talent debut alongside UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and retired title contender Kenny Florian for FS1’s UFC Fight Night: Rivera vs. Morales on June 1. Blow-by-blow announcer Jon Anik and veteran MMA analyst Jimmy Smith will call the bouts live. Laura Sanko adds reports and interviews fighters on-site. In addition, Mario Delgado and Victor Davila call the fights in Spanish on FOX Deportes…

…NFL Front Office Insider Louis Riddick will expand his ESPN role to appear on Monday Night Football halftime and postgame shows as part of a new multi-year extension. Riddick, one of the company’s top NFL experts, will now travel to the site of ESPN’s weekly MNF game where he will work alongside host Suzy Kolber and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young on Monday nights. Riddick, who joined ESPN in 2013, is one of the industry’s most respected NFL voices. The former NFL player and team executive will continue to offer his insight and analysis on ESPN’s signature NFL shows — Sunday NFL Countdown, NFL Live, and NFL Matchup while also making regular appearances on multiple editions of SportsCenter, Get Up!, and ESPN Radio programs. Riddick’s high-profile role in year-round coverage of major NFL events also includes the Super Bowl and the NFL Draft, where he is a main set analyst for ESPN’s three-day telecast. Prior to joining ESPN, Riddick worked in the Washington Redskins (2001-07) and Philadelphia Eagles (2008-13) front offices — serving first as a pro scout and eventually director of pro personnel. His seven-year NFL career included three seasons in Cleveland while playing under legendary coaches Bill Belichick and Nick Saban

…Former NFL head coach John Fox has joined ESPN as an NFL studio. The former head coach of the Carolina Panthers (2002-10), Denver Broncos (2011-14), and Chicago Bears (2015-17), Fox led two of his teams — the 2013 Broncos and 2003 Panthers — to Super Bowl appearances and he coached future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning for three seasons in Denver. Fox will make year-round appearances on NFL Live, SportsCenter, ESPN Radio shows, and more.