Sports Radio News
Does Simmons Want Out of ESPN?
Late last week, we passed on scuttlebutt that ESPN columnist/podcast/sports guy/talking head/producer Bill Simmons would be a free agent in a year.
People in tech and media believe Simmons wants to leave ESPN, where he reportedly makes more than $3 million a year.
It’s said that Simmons wants to start his own company, with investment from a platform that will help him with sales, tech, and publicity.
If so, that platform will presumably need to write Simmons quite a large check to get going.
For comparison’s sake, the news-for-millennials startup Mic raised $10 million for its second big round of financing last spring. Previously, it had raised $5 million. Bleacher Report cofounder Bryan Goldberg raised $6.5 million to launch Bustle, a news site for women.
Simmons will probably need to raise a similar amount to staff a newsroom of 20 or so. He will definitely need to raise more if wants to keep pulling a $3 million salary.
Is Simmons worth that kind of money?
Not according to one digital media CEO we spoke to.
This person pointed to the performance of the two big sites Simmons has launched for ESPN so far.
The first is Grantland, the middle-to high-brow sports site Simmons launched three years ago.
According to ComScore, Grantland reached 4.8 million people in August 2014. That’s pretty small compared with the 25 million people the Gawker Media sports website Deadspin reached in the same month. Grantland grew 19% year-over-year. Deadspin grew 303%. The audience of another competitor, Vox Media’s SB Nation, was 13 million.
The comparison is especially ugly for Grantland when you consider that it gets a lot of traffic from ESPN.com, a web giant with roughly 200 million monthly unique visitors.
The second big web brand Simmons helped launch for ESPN is FiveThirtyEight. As Grantland is built around Simmons, FiveThirtyEight is built around Nate Silver, the reporter who became famous for using polling data to accurately predict the results of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.
FiveThirtyEight is supposed to be a “smart” site that tells stories based on numbers.
Supposedly, Simmons fought hard for ESPN to hire Silver, and some ESPN executives hold Simmons accountable for FiveThirtyEight’s performance.
So how is it doing?
ComScore says FiveThirtyEight has just under 2 million visitors. That’s small, but FiveThirtyEight is relatively new.
Fortunately, there’s a good site to compare FiveThirtyEight to: Vox, the politics-and-more news analysis site from Vox Media that launched around the same time and has its own star editor, former Washington Post political blogger Ezra Klein.
ComScore says Vox has 10.7 million unique visitors.
Why are FiveThirtyEight and Grantland so small?
The digital-media CEO we spoke to said he had heard Grantland writers were completely shielded from traffic data and that there was little pressure on them to attract new readers.
That’s different from how things run at successful standalone digital properties, including Gawker Media, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and some of the Vox Media sites, where (with some exceptions) writers are usually aware of their traffic and sometimes see their compensation rise or fall because of it.
Because of that difference, the CEO we spoke to said he would probably stay out of any bidding war for Simmons when his contract is up next year.
Nonetheless, Simmons may well be worth what ESPN pays him.
After all, ESPN is already a web giant, so squeezing a few million extra uniques out of Simmons may not really be a priority.
ESPN may well be perfectly happy simply to have him on TV talking about basketball, coming up with ideas like the “30 for 30″ documentary series, and generally infusing the ESPN brand with the Simmons mystique — making the whole place more attractive to advertisers.
There is real value in all of that.
It’s just unlikely that a digital-only, venture-capital-funded company would be able to capture the same value.
If Simmons wants to start or partner with a company like that, his new site is going to have work differently than Grantland does.
If he doesn’t want to do that, he has two options: Stay in the world of TV-based media — perhaps joining FOX Sports or NBCSN — or go to a new-media company like Yahoo or AOL that’s willing to pay him because of his brand’s halo effect.
Credit to Business Insider who originally posted this story.
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Sports Radio News
Mike Evans: ESPN is Going To Have to Cover the Nuggets Next Week
“If they want to get anything out of their investment, they’ve got to do their best to pump this thing up.”
When the Denver Nuggets advanced to the NBA Finals, much of the ESPN coverage centered around the Los Angeles Lakers being swept. Viewers perceived there being minimal mentions of Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray and the rest of the Nuggets organization and what the team had just accomplished.
Brian Windhorst appeared on ESPN and stated the Lakers were terrific at going down in the series and calling the sweep an impressive performance by the team.
“I have to admit – my entire life as a sports fan, covering sports – countless locker rooms [and] press conferences – I don’t think I’ve heard anything dumber than that,” said Denver Sports 104.3 The Fan host Mike Evans.
ESPN has received its fair share of criticism, magnified when NBA on TNT studio analyst Charles Barkley expressed his disdain for the lack of Denver Nuggets coverage on television. LeBron James divulging that he is weighing retirement ostensibly played a role in the plans for talking points since he is widely regarded as one of the top players to ever take the court. Game 1 of the 2023 NBA Finals takes place on Thursday, June 1, meaning ESPN has over a week until the action commences; however, the show believes that placing the Lakers at the forefront imparts an agenda focused on garnering television ratings.
“‘What’s LeBron’s legacy?’,” co-host Mark Schlereth suggested as a topic on ESPN. “How does this win affect his legacy? Will he or will he not come back?’ Dude, the Nuggets just went to the Finals for the first time in their 47-year existence.”
“‘Kyrie Irving courtside!,’” Evans mocked an ESPN host saying. “‘Are they going to team up again?’”
The show proceeded to refer to Windhorst as a fanboy, especially since he covered James for the majority of his NBA career. They had ESPN on in a studio television throughout the show and saw no coverage pertaining to the Denver Nuggets, instead saying that the shows were centered around James, head coach Darvin Ham and the Lakers’ future. Nonetheless, Evans assumes things will change as the NBA Finals draw near.
“Starting next week, it’ll all be about the Nuggets and [Miami] Heat because ultimately no matter what you want to say about ESPN or how mad you are about ESPN, they do have the NBA Finals,” Evans articulated. “If they want to get anything out of their investment, they’ve got to do their best to pump this thing up.”
Sports Radio News
Jon Ritchie: ‘Not Realistic’ for Mike Florio to Expect Answers From Howie Roseman
“I think your ask of Howie is ridiculous for him.”
Things got contentious this week on Pro Football Talk Live. Howie Roseman would not answer Mike Florio’s direct questions about tampering. Jon Ritchie listened to the audio Wednesday morning on 94 WIP and put the blame on Florio.
Before the NFL Draft, the NFL ruled that the Arizona Cardinals were guilty of tampering with then-Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon the week that the Eagles were in Arizona for Super Bowl LVII. Gannon was named head coach of the Cardinals the next day.
When Florio asked Roseman about it, Roseman offered what sounded like a prepared statement saying that it did not make sense for the Eagles to dwell on the past. Instead, he thanked Gannon for his work for the team and said that any tampering penalties and arguments were “made at the ownership level.”
While that answer did not satisfy Ritchie’s partner Joe DeCamara, Ritchie said that he isn’t sure what Florio or anyone else would expect Howie Roseman to say in that situation.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to expect Howie to put his heart out and give his true feelings. He doesn’t want to come out against the league,” he said.
The duo played more audio from the exchange in which Florio accused Howie Roseman of deflecting and asking if he would like to read his talking points for a third time. Roseman shot back that Florio is easily on a list of the NFL’s top 5 conspiracy theorists.
Just how contentious things actually were can be debated, but according to Jon Ritchie, one of them deserves more criticism than the other.
“I thought Florio came across as rude yesterday,” he said. “I think your ask of Howie is ridiculous for him. We’re standing up like an adult and sticking to our guns, the high-road guns, and I appreciate that. Think of what you’re asking Howie to do, like take aim at the league…That’s not realistic.”
Sports Radio News
Fred Toucher: ‘ESPN is Now Just 3 People’
“Stephen A. Smith is on in the morning. He’s on the radio. He does a podcast. He’s at all the games. He does the postgames.”
How deep is the talent rotation at ESPN? Not very according to Fred Toucher. The 98.5 The Sports Hub morning host has certainly noticed that the network is turning to a small handfull of stars to do the bulk of the work.
“ESPN is now like three people, and Stephen A. Smith is on in the morning. He’s on the radio. He does a podcast. He’s at all the games. He does the postgames,” morning host Fred Toucher said. “Imagine if we had a microphone in front of us 12 hours a day…The guy’s going to snap one time.”
That led to a new segment on Toucher & Rich titled “Stephen A. Smith is horny” with music by R&B artist Barry White playing in the background. Throughout the nearly 20-minute aside, the show played clips from Smith’s Cadence 13-produced podcast recently renamed The Stephen A. Smith Show, and spoke about how he is now giving dating advice to close out episodes of his show.
“My man can’t help getting horny on it every single episode,” Jon Wallach said. “He is trapped with a microphone in front of him 18 hours a day – he really is. He’s on TV and the radio and podcast. It doesn’t stop.”
Because of Smith’s busy schedule across ESPN programming – including First Take, NBA Countdown, NBA in Stephen A’s World and guest appearances on shows such as SportsCenter and Get Up – he seems to be over the airwaves more often than not. On top of that, he hosts new episodes of his podcast at least three times a week. He has said the network did research that found he had reached 1.7 billion people on ESPN’s YouTube page last year, and that the number is expected to hit 2.4 billion at the end of this year.
The Boston morning show surmised that since Smith hardly has moments away from his profession, he cannot help but to talk about topics such as dating advice to vary the content.
“He just loves to drop into that sexy – ‘We’re going to do dating advice because everyone’s reaching out for dating advice from Stephen A. Smith,’” Toucher said.