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John Skipper Addresses ESPN Departure

Jason Barrett

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Former ESPN President John Skipper has spoken publicly for the first time about his exit from the worldwide leader in sports. In a lengthy conversation with James Andrew Miller of the Hollywood Reporter, Skipper attributes his departure to an extortion plot.

Among the noteworthy comments offered by Skipper were an acknowledgement that he’s gone to therapy and received treatment for his lifelong battle with substance abuse. Skipper said his vice was cocaine, but he never got high at work or allowed it to interfere with his responsibilities of overseeing ESPN. He added that his usage was very infrequent

When pressed by Miller for clarity on whether or not he was forced to resign by Disney CEO Bob Iger, Skipper said he made the call himself after placing Iger in an untenable position. He confirmed that they spoke on Friday afternoon December 15th and his exit from the company was announced just three days later. When asked if he had considered resigning earlier in the week (Wednesday December 13th) when he spoke about the state of the company to a room full of ESPN employees, he said he had not.

Miller then pressed Skipper to explain how such a life altering decision could manifest itself within the span of 48 hours. Skipper opened up and admitted that someone from whom he had purchased cocaine attempted to extort him, leading him to face the reality that his time at ESPN was about to expire.

After being threatened, and put in a position to think about how the exposure could hurt his family and career, Skipper shared the details with his family. He then reached out to Iger, who felt the company had been put in a no-win situation, with the best solution being for Skipper to step down.

Given the circumstances, Skipper said he felt it was the only decision that made sense for all involved. He blamed himself for using poor judgement, and when asked by Miller why he couldn’t have just admitted the issue publicly and taken a leave of absence to get himself clean, Skipper said he didn’t ask for that outcome and had been overwhelmed by the situation. After talking to Iger and coming to terms with how he had put the company in a compromised position, it was made clear what his next steps needed to be.

The conversation then advanced to the rumors of sexual harassment being a factor in his exit from the company. Skipper categorically denied any involvement in such incidents and said that his behavior towards women at ESPN was always respectful. He mentioned that when he announced his resignation, his statement was written to make it clear that his exit was related to substance issue problems, and unrelated to anything surrounding harassment, settled lawsuits or any internal indiscretions.

Prior to announcing his exit, Skipper said he spent the weekend agonizing over what was about to occur. He said he was filled with great regret and tension, didn’t eat, wasn’t sleeping, and had become despondent.

When Monday rolled around, Skipper said he was in New York City when the news was revealed publicly. He said he rarely cries, but did so that day because he understood what he had done to himself, his family, and the company. He spoke about his disappointment of people he cared about and enjoyed working with having to find out about his departure thru a press release, and felt terrible about letting them down.

After spending 27 years with the company, Skipper blamed himself for creating a situation which undoubtedly stained his legacy. He did tell Miller that he would like to get back into the business and do things that matter. He feels he has no choice but to make the best of a bad ending, and intends to do so moving forward. The former ESPN president confirmed that he’s healthy, in a better state of mind, and has taken a few meetings to discuss future possibilities.

To close out the interview, Skipper said new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro is someone he likes very much, and considers a talented and smart executive. He feels Pitaro’s style will be a great fit for ESPN, and added “I hope he does better than the last guy!”

Sports TV News

FOX Sued for Patent Infringement Over NFL Scheduling

“Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.”

Jordan Bondurant

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An analytics company is suing FOX over claims that the network developed a mapping tool using their patented technology to create a season slate of NFL games.

Recentive Analytics filed suit against FOX in a Delaware federal court on November 29 according to Yahoo Sports.

The lawsuit claims FOX used access to Recentive’s predictive analytics tools to develop a resource of their own that would create optimal schedules for its 1 and 4 p.m. NFLwindows.

The company is seeking a declaration that FOX infringed on two of its patents. Recentive is also suing for damages and wants an injunction keeping FOX from using Recentive tech and preventing the network from “selling, offering for sale, marketing or using any internal network and mapping analytics tool for the scheduling and regionalization of events covered by the patents.”

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Sports TV News

FOX Will Use Chris Fallica On Belmont Stakes Coverage

“While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.”

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The Bear will be more than just a college football presence when he moves to FOX. Chris Fallica wrapped his final duties for ESPN last week and is now headed to a new network and will tackle some new responsibilities.

Fallica’s new role at FOX will involve plenty of sports gambling content. Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reports that content will include horse racing.

“One Fox Sports source said look for him to appear on the Belmont Stakes coverage,” Deitsch wrote in his weekly media column.

Starting in 2023, horse racing’s Triple Crown will not be seen all in one place. While the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby remain at NBC, The Belmont Stakes is moving to FOX as part of the network’s deal with the New York Racing Association.

How the network intends to use Chris Fallica on the broadcast is not clear. Given that he is coming to the network to contribute to gambling conversations, it is likely he would either be making picks or at least reviewing odds right up to the start of the race.

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Sports TV News

NBCUniversal CEO Expects Disney To Buy Company’s Hulu Stake

“Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal.”

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The Walt Disney Company owns 67% of Hulu. The other 33% is owned by NBCUniversal. The latter company doesn’t expect that to be the case forever.

“It’s worth a lot of money,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said at an investor conference earlier this week, “and I think there’s no indication that anything else is going to happen than Disney writing us a big check.”

Hulu is primarily a platform for movies and television shows. It is a major part of Disney’s deal with the NHL though. The streaming giant is part of the package of 103 games that are exclusive to ESPN and ABC. Hulu is also a live TV provider for many. The company’s Hulu Plus Live TV package had over 4 million subscribers as of the summer of 2022.

Shell noted that live sports coverage is helping make the stake in Hulu a luxury for NBCUniversal. He credits sports and content migrated from Hulu as the reason Peacock has grown to 18 million paid subscriptions since September.

Deadline reports that if Disney does want to acquire NBCUniversal’s stake in Hulu, “the price could fluctuate but will be in the tens of billions of dollars.”

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