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What Happens When ESPN Overpays For The NFL?

Jason Barrett

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This week will tell the story about whether Big Media’s summer swoon in stock prices was a temporary blip or the beginning of a long-term secular decline for the space similar to what we saw in newspapers starting 15 years ago.

Or – more likely – it will be both.

That means we could be poised for a temporary comeback in these names, while also having the longer term trend now firmly underway as of this summer and ready to play out over the coming years.

With the market rebound in the month of October, a lot of the big media names were finally able to get up off the canvas.

Disney – which will report on Thursday afternoon – shot up 11% for the month, ahead of the the S&P 500 at 8%. Time Warner, reporting Wednesday, was up 8% in October.

Fox did even better at 13% for the month.

Some of the biggest winners for the month though came down the most in the summer. Viacom was up 15% for the month of October, while CBS was up 17% (and reports on Wednesday).

Some of the cable company earnings last week gave hope that consumers are not cancelling their bundles quite as quickly as some of the cynics have worried about.

This week, we’ll hear from the content owners.

Of course, the most interesting report is going to come from Disney. ESPN basically started cutting costs from the moment they let Bill Simmons walk this past May. If you listen to his new podcasts or others discussing the anger between Simmons and ESPN head John Skipper, it’s often described in highly personal tones.

My view is that ESPN execs got the word from Disney on high that costs were way too high relative to subscriber cancellation fears and the expensive sports rights the network had signed up for over most of the next decade.

Ending the Simmons relationship is peanuts in the grand scheme of ESPN annual profits (maybe $6M a year?). But it was the start of a number of layoffs at the network over the summer and the decision to let Olbermann and Cowherd leave.

All those decisions made more sense in light of the August earnings report from Disney. Now, we’ll get their latest on Thursday. But the job cuts have continued at ESPN. 3 – 400 more people from the network were recently let go.

There were some reports after the latest blood-letting from perhaps those who were let go that ESPN had outbid the nearest rival for rights to Monday Night Football by $500 million a year to win it at just under $2 billion a season.

On a recent Netflix earnings call, executives said they had no interest in participating in the bidding on sports rights which they called excessive.

So, if we are living in a sports bubble, should we expect that sports rights will fall back to earth when they next get negotiated in 5 to 7 years? Not necessarily because there are likely to be a whole bunch of new digital bidders around the table when that happens. More competition is generally supportive of the prices paid.

Just a week ago, Yahoo bid $20 million to the NFL for the right to – by some reports – lose $17 million broadcasting a 6:30am PT game from London between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars. You can bet that Apple, Amazon, Yahoo, Twitter, and Google are likely to be as interested in the NFL as much as the broadcast networks the next time the NFL decides to put a package of games up for bidding.

So, in this environment, expect more job cuts at these networks. Expect less grandiose sets for SportsCenter. Expect only a hundred reporters covering sports instead of 500.

The decision on Friday to shut down Grantland was probably an easy one for ESPN and Disney. They aren’t here to have an ego war with Bill Simmons to show him up by keeping Grantland afloat. It wasn’t a big traffic driver and it’s 40 – 50 people, so… shut it down.

I’ll miss all the tremendous writing talent and great personalities but – let’s face it – they’ll all find a home and I’ll keep listening. It just was too expensive for ESPN to keep it going.

I would expect the Nate Silver experiment at 538 will end within the next two years as well and he’ll be back to the New York Times or Bloomberg if they make him a more lucrative offer.

The Undefeated might also be tossed aside as well. I’m actually surprised they recently said it was going to go forward. Why? Shovel everyone through ESPN.com or the Magazine. That’s it. Eventually that’s all that will be left around the actual sports.

If Thursday’s Disney results show more subscriber contraction, expect these kinds of moves to happen faster.

Read more at Forbes which is where this article was originally published

Sports TV News

Pedro Martinez: ‘Never Imagined’ TV Career

“And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.”

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As the Major League Baseball season comes to a close and preparations for the playoffs begin, MLB Network and TNT analyst Pedro Martinez joined The Press Box podcast to discuss his time as a television analyst.

When asked what he liked about working in television, Martinez didn’t hesitate with his answer.

“I think it’s a platform and the opportunity I have to bring to the audience what I know, what I think, what I understand and broadcasting gives me the opportunity to continue to have that communication with the people, the young athletes and fans. At the same time, I’m able to continue to learn and transmit some of the things that I would love to show everybody by playing but my body doesn’t allow me, but my mind does.

“This is a great way to bring the right information to the people, but I take advantage of the platform to communicate with my fanbase, the player’s fanbase, and the voice behind the players and the situations that come up, I can actually teach the audience some of the things that I understand from my point of view.”

A media career was never in the cards for Martinez. At least that’s what he thought during his playing career.

“I swear to god, it’s the only thing I never imagined. I never thought I would like being in front of a camera,” Martinez said. “And the reason I’m here, it’s not because of the camera, it’s actually because it gives me an opportunity to remain linked to the game, remain linked to what’s going on, the different changes the game is offering right now, adjusting to different things.

“You learn so much just by having access to information, having access to so many other different things. A lot of people would be surprised how much you can dig into and I think for everybody else, if they knew the kind of information we have access to, they’d be intrigued to come do what we do.”

He then said one of the things he would have never picked up on was how many pitchers tip their pitches, but due to all of the information, video, and relationships broadcasters have make that information readily available. He added his work in television has enabled more relationships with baseball players from his home country, the Dominican Republic.

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Stephen A. Smith and Malika Andrews Get Heated Over Ime Udoka Coverage

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

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Stephen A. Smith, Malika Andrews

On Friday’s First Take, Stephen A. Smith continued his stance regarding the public leaking of information surrounding Celtics’ Head Coach Ime Udoka relationship with a team staffer. He also went further by sharing his dismay that Udoka was seemingly the only person punished for the violation of company policy.

“Only he is in violation of the company policy?” Smith asked. “The woman who elected to have a consensual relationship with him is not in violation?” 

Before the end of the show, ESPN NBA Today host Malika Andrews called in the program and wanted to address Smith’s comments.

“Stephen A., with all do respect, this is not about pointing the finger. Stop,” Andrews said. “The fact that we are sitting here debating whether somebody else should have been suspended or not, we are not here, Stephen A., to further blame women.”

Smith would replay saying that his intention was not blame anyone outside of the Celtics coach.

“First of all, let me be very clear, I don’t appreciate where you’re going with that, I’m not blaming anybody but Ime Udoka,” Smith stated. “The fact of the matter is, he deserves to be fired if they were going to fire him. If you’re not going to fire him, then don’t fire him. My issue is all of this being publicized.”

Andrews tried to jump back in for further commentary but Smith stopped that and noted he didn’t appreciate being interrupted on “my show”.

“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me, I listened to you,” Smith interjected, “you’re the one telling me to stop on my show. It ain’t happening.”

Andrews did thank Smith for clarifying his stance at the end of the segment. ESPN has removed access to the video from its YouTube channel by making it private.

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Rich Eisen on Tom Brady Joining FOX: ‘I Gotta See It to Believe It’

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow.”

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Is 2023 the year we see Tom Brady in the broadcast booth for FOX? Rich Eisen isn’t so sure.

“I still gotta see it to believe it, I’ll be honest with you, man. I know it’s a great chunk of change and it’s a lot of money. I don’t know,” the NFL Network icon said on the most recent edition of the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast.

Tom Brady has taken his foot off the gas in 2022 in a more public way than fans are used to. He voluntarily missed eleven days of training camp and has announced that he will not be available to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesdays during the season.

Eisen says if Brady is looking for a less demanding career, broadcasting isn’t the best option.

“It is a lot of work. And I’m not saying Brady’s not up for it, but if he’s been grinding for 23, 24 years, it’s still a grind in its own way.”

FOX signed Brady to a ten-year deal reportedly worth $375 million to start after he retires. He will be in the network’s top broadcast booth and also serve as an ambassador for the network’s coverage of the NFL.

Eisen says there is a much better model for Brady’s media career in his old rival Peyton Manning.

“I think what Peyton Manning has done with his post-playing career is more of a blueprint that I would think Brady would follow,” Eisen said. “Peyton Manning could be making that much money in the booth himself, right? Instead, he’s got his own production company and he’s doing the games, but not all of them, only 10 of them. And he’s doing them from his basement and he’s got the rights to the games!”

He added that Tom Brady “write his own ticket like that” if he chose to do something similar to what Manning has done with Omaha Productions.

Brady has not had much to say about his deal with FOX since the news became public. In June, he told Dan Patrick that he knows his first season in the booth will come with a lot of growing pains.

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