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John Skipper: People Will Long For Cable When They Can’t Find Their Games

“You are going to go through a very difficult period of time in the next 5-10 years in which people are not going to be able to find the game they want to watch nearly as easily as they did in the 2000s and 2010s.”

Ricky Keeler

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With the lucrative contracts that have been given out to college football coaches in recent weeks, it has led some to wonder whether those coaches actually deserve the large sums of money that they are receiving. 

To discuss that topic and the future of streaming rights and television, Dan Le Batard was joined by the CEO of Meadowlark Media, John Skipper, and the former president of the Miami Marlins, David Samson on a special episode of the South Beach Sessions podcast.

Both Skipper and Samson believe that coaches do deserve to make that much money. Both men arrived at the conclusion for a different reason.

“I think they are worth the money they are being paid. It may seem outlandish to some people who are making $53,000 a year and don’t understand why you have to pay a football coach 5 or 6 times more than you pay a university president. But, relative success on the football field leads to excitement from your donors, leads to increased admissions, leads to a lot of people showing up in your town for football games. A 12-0 Miami is worth $8 million more than a 7-5 Miami,” said John Skipper. 

“The reason why football coaches to me are making this amount of money is universities are realizing that they are getting fewer and fewer students to pay full freight tuition. They are running at a deficit operationally in a way they never have before. What they are finding is people like you running broadcast empires who are willing to pay rights fees in numbers that are probably irrational, but based on the need for live content. Sports live content in the college area drives so much revenue that if you can get a program that is attractive into a conference that is attractive, it’s going to do way more for your bottom line than anything you can do in any other department. University presidents think coaches are the key master to that money and that’s why they do it,” said Samson. 

Skipper even mentioned that the first broadcast rights deal he negotiated when he was president of ESPN was with the Big Ten. While he was able to accomplish a lucrative rights deal, there is one thing he wished ESPN did not allow to happen in that deal: 

“The first conference deal I worked on was the Big Ten, which came up in 2005. We were competing with FOX. We did a 10-year, $1 billion deal. That was the first billion-dollar deal in college sports for the rights to most of the Big Ten’s games. They kept some games for the Big Ten Network. We should have never let the Big Ten Network happen at ESPN. Wasn’t good for our business that those games leaked out of the system, but Jim Delany had the smart idea to launch a network with FOX and that also was good business, even though it had a rough start.”

Samson mentioned that when he was in charge of the Marlins, he never made a decision with the fans’ thoughts in mind. Well, he now believes that fans are going to have to be heard because they are going to control what actually happens over the next few years.

“What’s happening is there’s a greater demand for people 18-34 to not put up with that. They want no wall in the way of what they want to watch when they want to watch it and where they are when they watch it and on what they watch it on. One of the things team owners have done is they have tried to get back the streaming rights that they gave away to broadcast networks. The reason why networks are willing to pay teams so much for their local rights fees is that’s all you got and you are going to pay your cable company or you are going to pay to have that network available to you to get the game. If you don’t have to pay that network, that network is not going to pay that team and that team isn’t going to pay the players.”

So, what could the future of sports television look like? John Skipper mentioned that people should prepare to be frustrated that it won’t be easy to find their team’s favorite game: 

“You are going to go through a very difficult period of time in the next 5-10 years in which people are not going to be able to find the game they want to watch nearly as easily as they did in the 2000s and 2010s. I will hazard a guess that people will be nostalgic about paid television before too long because it was a great system and very great value because everything you wanted to watch, you paid Spectrum or Comcast and every college football or baseball game was on.

“You can find them all with a single remote and single service. You are going to enter into a bewildering time where people do not know where their game is because 5 of them will be on NBC broadcast and 3 of them will be on ESPN+ and 2 of them will be on Paramount+ and one of them will be on the ACC Network. Every week, you are going to have to figure out where the hell are they playing this week…It’s going to be more expensive, more difficult to find.”

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Nick Wright: The Best Version of First Things First is What We’re Doing Now

“I used to approach the TV show with the perspective of I have to prove how smart I am to the audience every single day.”

Ricky Keeler

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Nick Wright has been a co-host on First Things First on FS1 for the last five-and-a-half years. The show has evolved over the years and according to Wright, he has evolved as a broadcaster from the time he got cut from doing play-by-play at WAER in Syracuse to now.

Wright was a guest on The Colin Cowherd Podcast this week and he said that when he first appeared on television, he wanted the audience to think he had all the answers, but the mindset has changed for him and he said the new version of the show that he does with Kevin Wildes and Chris Broussard every weekday is the most successful version of the show.

“When I got on TV, I think the first year maybe, I thought the job was to always have all the answers. To have the facts exactly right, to never be wrong. I’ve now done the show for five-and-a-half years. By a country mile, the most successful version of the show is the one I’m doing right now — this moment — with Wildes and Broussard. It’s the funniest and that’s why.

“I used to approach the TV show with the perspective of I have to prove how smart I am to the audience every single day. Now I approach it as our entire goal is to put on a show that people smile while they are watching and have a good time and that has enough meat to it where it is not all empty calories. There’s got to be the information, there’s got to be the analysis, but there’s also got to be a lot of bells and whistles and funny stuff and guys messing with each other and that’s what works. That took me a while to figure out.”

The only time when Wright didn’t think he had to prove how smart he was when he first appeared on TV was when he would appear on The Herd as Cowherd’s guest and he had a goal in mind whenever he would appear on the show.

“Early in our relationship, I was really, really trying to impress you and I wanted to make you laugh. Every time I came on, I was like ‘It’s successful if I made Colin laugh’. I was too stupid to realize I should just be trying to make the audience laugh, too… That was the best version of me at the time. I felt like you knew I was smart, so I wasn’t trying to prove it to you. I could be the best version of myself.”

While Wright knows he is not a traditional broadcaster, he mentioned to Cowherd that there is one skill set he definitely knows he has.

“The point is I’m not a great broadcaster, like a traditional broadcaster. I can’t read off a teleprompter, but there is a specific thing I can do, which is confidently argue, whether it’s 1-on-1 with my wife or in front of a million people.”

Even though Wright got cut from doing play-by-play at Syracuse, he told Cowherd he was doing talk shows at the station still and it led him to where he is today.

“I was fortunate that I was already working on the talk-show staff. Growing up, I thought I wanted to do play-by-play, but what I wanted to do was color commentary. I would watch the NBA on NBC with Bob Costas, Bill Walton, and Steve ‘Snapper’ Jones and what I wanted to do was the color, but I didn’t realize you can’t do that unless you are a former player or a former coach. They aren’t hiring me to do commentary

“I was crushed, but it made me fully pivot to talk shows. Now at WAER, the talk show studio is named after me and my picture is on the wall. I am a Hall of Famer there. Bob Costas, Marv Albert, Nick Wright, those are the three studios there.”

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Outside the Lines Won’t Return to ESPN Weekend Schedule

The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017.

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ESPN has decided to not return Outside the Lines to its weekend lineup, ending the show’s linear television run.

A report from John Ourand of Sports Business Journal claims ESPN told OTL staffers that the show wouldn’t return to the network after the Super Bowl.

The show, which debuted in 1990, aired as a daily show from 2003 to 2019 and aired a Sunday-edition from 2000 to 2017. Outside the Lines was often regarded as the “moral compass” of ESPN, and was often the source of some of the more investigative reporting employed by the network.

Outside the Lines — which was airing at 9:00 AM on Saturday mornings — averaged 303,000 viewers in the timeslot. Meanwhile, SportsCenter: AM has seen an average audience of 572,000 in the same window.

The Outside the Lines brand will continue being utilized during the Noon ET SportsCenter, as well as ESPN digital platforms, including the network’s YouTube page.

Jeremy Schaap will continue to host the Outside the Lines segments during SportsCenter, but will also be the host of a new iteration of The Sports Reporters that will air on ESPN’s YouTube channel. Schaap’s father, Dick, was the host of the ESPN Sunday morning program from 1988 until his death in 2001. The show aired on ESPN from 1988 to 2017.

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Sports TV News

CBS: Calling Meeting With Tony Romo ‘Intervention’ is ‘Complete Mischaracterization’

“We meet regularly with our on-air talent.”

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An opening question in broadcasting circles is ‘What happened to Tony Romo?’, with even CBS reportedly pondering the issue.

During The Marchand and Ourand Sports Media Podcast earlier this week, The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand claimed CBS attempted “an intervention” with its lead NFL analyst.

The intended mission of several alleged meetings with CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus and CBS NFL producer Jim Rikhoff was to return Romo to his previous heights, which were widely regarded as the best NFL analyst in the business.

CBS Sports has responded to the insinuation that the meetings would be classified as an “intervention” with a strong denial.

“To call this an intervention is a complete mischaracterization, we meet regularly with our on-air talent,” CBS Sports spokeswoman Jen Sabatelle told Marchand

Marchand added that CBS Sports officials plan to attempt to rectify the issues it sees with Romo again this offseason. Romo — who signed a 10-year, $180 million contract with CBS Sports in 2020 — is slated to call Super Bowl LVIII in 2024 with Jim Nantz.

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