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John Skipper: There’s No Evidence Broadcasters Are Worth $18 Million Per Year

“I never saw a scintilla of evidence that the people in the booth change the ratings even by a smidgen. The race to hire people is mostly about internal pride.”

Ricky Keeler

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With NFL broadcasting free agency in full swing, there are some who wonder if Troy Aikman getting reportedly around $90 million for five years from ESPN to leave FOX is too much money. Plus, some wonder if it makes a big difference who is calling the big games of the week from a TV ratings standpoint.

On the latest episode of the South Beach Sessions podcast, Dan Le Batard had John Skipper (former president at ESPN and now CEO of Meadowlark Media) and David Samson (former president of the Miami Marlins) on to talk about the big salaries given to broadcasters among other topics.

At the beginning of the podcast, Le Batard asked Skipper if he believed that a color commentator is worth $17-18 million per year regardless of how talented they are. Skipper said there isn’t really much evidence that proves that a commentator is worth that much money necessarily.

“I never saw a scintilla of evidence that the people in the booth change the ratings even by a smidgen,” said Skipper. “The race to hire people is mostly about internal pride. We want to present a good game.

“We want the media to suggest we have a great booth and the people who can do this very well are very rare. May make a little difference around the advertising margins if people are saying your show is great. Can you justify it by looking at a P&L? If I hire Troy Aikman for $18 million rather than Jill Smith for $3 million, will I see $15 million? I think the answer is no.”

“Everybody in the sports industry shows up at the Sports Emmys and they are very proud when it is announced that their version of NASCAR or their version of MLB is the best,” Skipper continued. “It is probably good for your brand. I wasn’t suggesting that it’s a foolish decision, just that it’s not about math.”  

While Skipper was at ESPN and forming the Monday Night Football booth, he wanted to do something different from the conventional way broadcasts are done and he mentioned he regretted that he didn’t push harder for Tony Kornheiser to stay in the broadcast booth longer than he was (from 2006 through 2008).

“It was my feeling and still is that the networks still are doing the radio play-by-play on television,” Skipper said. “If you watch the ‘ManningCast,’ which I have and I find highly entertaining, it feels to me that it makes it clear that you don’t need somebody to tell you everything that you can see. It is interesting to have some commentary on it, have some expertise.

“I thought with Tony, it would be interesting to add some humor on it and that we didn’t need play-by-play. Of course I was in charge so nobody would say no, you can’t do that, but there is such a thing as a pocket veto… It was not particularly embraced. I’ve always regretted that I didn’t insist in a more firm manner that Tony Kornheiser be made an integral part of the booth and that we get away from radio play-by-play.”  

Skipper does find the “ManningCast” very entertaining and he said if we were still in charge at ESPN, he would be trying to make them the main booth, but he understands why nobody does that:

“The ManningCast is entertaining,” he said. “It’s fun and I did not miss at all some human being saying gee, the quarterback turns, hands the ball off, it goes for 3. It will be 2nd and 7. I can see that. Tell me something I can’t see.”

“I would be trying very hard to convince the Manning brothers that they should be doing the main broadcast and that we don’t have to do what everybody’s always done. You can make the other the alternate broadcast if anyone wants conventional play-by-play, they could turn into a different channel.

“Note that nobody does this. Everyone loves the Mannings, it’s a great success. What percentage watch the ‘ManningCast’ instead of the main broadcast? It’s de minimis because of habit. People know the game is on one place, they turn it on… 95% of people still watch it in the conventional way, so I may be completely wrong.” 

Samson did suggest that when Skipper had Kornheiser in the booth, he might have been ahead of his time in changing how a broadcast can be done.

What you were doing was the ‘ManningCast’ before it was the ‘ManningCast,’ except you made it the primary cast,” said Samson. “I’m not sure that ESPN or any network would have the Manning brothers sitting there just riffing during the course of a game without having an alternate booth that was giving you sort of the straight play-by-play.” 

With the way alternate broadcasts of sporting events have continued to grow in recent years, who knows if someone who thinks along the same lines as Skipper might try this one day. 

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Bill Simmons: Bob Iger Return Comes After Being Rebuffed As Potential Suns Owner

“Maybe I’m reporting this — Robert Sarver, the Suns owner, said flat-out ‘I’m not selling to Iger or a group that includes Iger’.”

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Bob Iger made his return to Disney as the company’s CEO in a shocking announcement Sunday night. The Ringer’s Bill Simmons believes it’s not a coincidence Iger has returned to replace Bob Chapek after being told he wouldn’t be part of a new ownership group of the Phoenix Suns.

“I think one of the things that’s been interesting about him the last couple of years is we always heard his name floated around for different things…Would he be involved with the Phoenix Suns? That seemed to be the latest thing,” Simmons said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “‘Oh, Iger’s got a group.’ I know — and maybe I’m reporting this — Robert Sarver, the Suns owner, said flat-out ‘I’m not selling to Iger or a group that includes Iger’ because he blamed Disney for the ESPN story that took down Sarver and led to him selling the team.

“I think once Iger realized he didn’t have a chance with the Suns, maybe that heated up the Disney thing.”

Simmons equated the return of Iger to that of an NFL quarterback he’s quite familiar with.

“There’s some Tom Brady elements to this,” Simmons said. “He leaves his dream job. Didn’t want to stay too long. He’s very wary of anyone who loves the Disney history and has read all the books. He was the guy Michael Eisner just refused to turn Disney over to for years and years, and Iger was very worried about not being that guy and stay too long, but he also wanted new challenges.”

Simmons began his podcast by calling the news one of the more seismic he’s seen.

“One of the biggest Hollywood stories of the past — I would say — eight to ten years happened tonight,” Bill Simmons said. “Bob Iger, who retired from Disney triumphantly, wrote a book, rode off into the sunset, named this handpicked successor — Bob Chapek — and a couple of years later reveals he’s returning as the CEO of Disney.”

Iger was the CEO at Disney from 2005-2020. Simmons worked at Disney-owned ESPN from 2001-2015.

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Barstool Sports Star Big Cat Launches Coffee Business

Barstool conducted a recent fan survey, and 80% of respondents said they drink coffee on a daily basis. Katz and the folks at Barstool listened, and so Stella Blue was born.

Jordan Bondurant

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A new direct-to-consumer product from the minds at Barstool Sports has hit store shelves – coffee. Stella Blue Coffee is a new brand launched by Pardon My Take co-host and Barstool Sports star Dan “Big Cat” Katz.

The name was inspired by Big Cat’s love of coffee and his love for his recue dog Stella.

Barstool conducted a recent fan survey, and 80% of respondents said they drink coffee on a daily basis. Katz and the folks at Barstool listened, and so Stella Blue was born.

The coffee will feature three different blends. Positive Vibes is the light roast, Big Cat Blend is the medium roast and Electric Avenue Dark Roast. The coffee is available in 12-ounce whole bean bags, 12-ounce ground bags and pods for Keurig lovers.

A portion of the proceeds from sales of the coffee will go to PAWS Chicago, the largest no-kill humane organization in Dan’s hometown.

Stella Blue is the latest Barstool-backed and created DTC product to hit store shelves. The company has a record of previous success launching other products including flavored vodka, beer and hard seltzers.

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Barstool Sports Raising Money In Memory of Murdered Virginia Football Players

Barstool created a design featuring the phrase C’ville Strong above the cross swords used in Virginia’s athletic logo. The design also features the initials and numbers for the three murdered players.

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Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy has announced a fundraising campaign for the three Virginia football players murdered earlier this week.

In a tweet, Portnoy said 100% of proceeds from t-shirt sales will go to support the families of Lavel “Tyler” Davis Jr., Devin Chandler, and D’Sean Perry, who were all killed in an on-campus shooting earlier this week.

Two of the three football players killed were Barstool Athletes, a name, image, and likeness program started by the online outlet.

Barstool created a design featuring the phrase C’ville Strong above the cross swords used in Virginia’s athletic logo. The design also features the initials and numbers for the three murdered players.

Merchandise can be purchased here.

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