Earlier this week, former ESPN personality Dan Le Batard and the former president at ESPN, John Skipper, announced the name of their new media company, Meadowlark Media. It will be a company that focuses on sports and storytelling.
To help announce this venture, Le Barard had Skipper as a guest on the Le Batard and Friends podcast. The one hour podcast released this week is the first of multiple parts, but Skipper did reveal the purpose and goal of the venture.
“What we are going to do is create a company that will take great content and make content out of those stories,” he said. “We want to tell stories. We want to have associations, relationships with great, talented storytellers and help them tell those stories across all platforms and mediums and genres. The meadowlark is the songbird of the new dawn and I figured post-Trump, post-COVID, the songbird as the new dawn might be welcome.”
In addition to talking about the new company, Skipper and Le Batard started off the podcast by talking about what led to Le Batard being hired at ESPN: The Magazine in 1998. For Skipper, his goal was always to have a diverse workforce at the magazine.
“The story of me trying to hire you started with the beginning of ESPN: The Magazine. I made the decision that we were going to create a diverse workforce for the magazine,” Skipper told Le Batard. “We were going to create a magazine with a great business plan. I looked at Sports Illustrated and believed that they were not in touch with the times. Sports Illustrated was a weekly gathering of sports fans who got the magazine and read about things that happened the week before, I thought that was a little out of date.
“Well, somebody got me a list of every hispanic sportswriter that has a regular column in the top 50-to-100 newspapers in the country. It was just one person. You. When I traveled and read the Miami Herald, I read many things that you wrote and they were great. I think he can speak to Hispanic sports fans and become a national figure.”
“You brought me in as one of the fire starters because you were trying to change the culture a little bit,” said Le Batard.
During this podcast, Le Batard got into what he felt was one of Skipper’s greatest failures at ESPN. It was a conversation Le Batard said the pair had in North Carolina after Skipper resigned from ESPN.
“I thought your greatest failure at ESPN for all the good work you did is that you couldn’t pour enough of that money back into content to make the content even better than it was. You did change it from it’s not just sports and highlights. You had the spirit of Page 2 in your heart and I wanted to see some great content across the network where at one point they brought in Rush Limbaugh. I believe you would be fascinating on the subject of ESPN was not a political company, all you did was put minorities on the air. The moment you did that, it became a political company because you were giving minorities voices.”
“I never understood why people can’t decouple the idea that diversity and tolerance and accepting people for who they are is political,” Skipper answered. “I don’t think that’s political. I think that’s human values. Why wouldn’t you want to populate your on-air talent with people from all different kinds of experiences? That’s not political. That’s respect for people for who they are.”
Ricky Keeler is a reporter for BSM with a primary focus on sports media podcasts and national personalities. He is also an active podcaster with an interest in pursuing a career in sports media. You can find him on Twitter @Rickinator555 or reach him by email at [email protected].
Clay Travis: CBS Executives Should Be Fired For Allowing SEC to Leave for ESPN
“CBS tripping all over themselves and ending their relationship with the SEC is so dumb that every single person who was responsible for that decision should be fired on the spot.”
OutKick host Clay Travis has harsh words for CBS executives who he says let the SEC leave for ESPN in lieu of a new deal with the Big Ten.
During OutKick The Show, Clay Travis broached the topic of the near future’s cosmic shift of college football media rights and made some stark comments about CBS and the execs that “ended their relationship with the SEC.”
“This is what CBS did, the single dumbest decision in the history of my life in sports media,” Travis said. “CBS tripping all over themselves and ending their relationship with the SEC is so dumb that every single person who was responsible for that decision should be fired on the spot.
“If I ran CBS, I would be like, ‘Everybody who screwed up the SEC game of the week and chose not to extend it at what would have been a substantial discount to what they ended up paying for a far worse package from the Big Ten? All of them should be fired.’”
Starting in 2024, the SEC will no longer air on CBS and will find its new home on ESPN and ABC. In its place will be a new-look Big Ten, sporting four top programs that fled the sinking Pac-12: USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington. Despite the excitement surrounding the Big Ten, Travis still feels like the move is a massive downgrade, comparing the SEC game of the week to a first-overall pick versus a third-round pick in the form of the Big Ten games.
“CBS Sports had the greatest television package in college sports history, in that they had the number one draft pick of every SEC game every week,” Travis said. “They went from the best game in college football many weeks — the SEC premier pick — to leaving the SEC and getting like third-round draft picks from the Big Ten.”
Travis credits ESPN for fostering their relationship with the SEC over the past two decades, which originally culminated in the formation of the SEC Network, a channel dedicated to all things Southeastern Conference. Disney and ESPN lay in wait while CBS had the big games, then took the next step with the SEC while CBS had its eyes elsewhere.
Now, the two sports titans are going steady at the proverbial sports media dance while CBS seemingly grabbed the first option on the other side of the floor. All CBS had to do, Clay Travis says, was pay a little more for then-new SEC entrants Texas A&M and Missouri back in 2012, and all would still be good.
“All the SEC had to do…was bump their payment up a little bit…and they could’ve extended their relationship,” Clay Travis said. “Yet when the SEC expanded and added Missouri and Texas A&M, ESPN said ‘Here is our checkbook, SEC. We want to be in business with you for as long as we can. We understand what you’re doing and we want to be in business with you. And that was the impetus behind the launching of the SEC Network.’”’
However, Texas and Oklahoma are leaving the Big 12 two years early and will join the SEC in 2024, which means more money for CBS that they may have not been willing to pay, even for some of the most recognizable programs in the country.
Despite the doom and gloom surrounding the deal, the new Big Ten will be no slouch. While CBS will lose perennial college football powerhouses like Alabama and Georgia, it gains USC and UCLA, Oregon and Washington from the Pac-12. This is on top of their existing teams like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, Nebraska, and Iowa. The only regular-season college football game to crack the top 100 broadcasts of 2022 was last year’s edition of “The Game” between Michigan and Ohio State.
Darren Rovell Leaving Action Network
Rovell will begin covering sports business on a full-time basis in a new role.
Darren Rovell has announced that he will be leaving Action Network at the end of the week to take on a new role where he will cover sports business on a full-time basis again.
Rovell joined Action Network five years ago shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act to be unconstitutional, granting states the ability to determine whether or not to legalize sports betting.
A former member of ESPN, Rovell affirmed that he “took a leap of faith” in leaving the entity and joining the company, which was sold to Better Collective for $240 million in 2021.
“We have built a best-in-class product and sold the company amidst the sports betting wave,” Rovell said in a statement posted on X. “I have also been blessed to make lifelong friendships with some of my colleagues.”
Within his remarks, Rovell acknowledged that there is rapid transition within the sports media business, rendering coverage of the industry even more indispensable for fans. Moreover, he expressed how he misses “the dollars and cents reporting” that compelled him to pursue a career in the business 23 years ago.
Darren Rovell previously worked at CNBC where he wrote business reports and anchored several documentaries on its air, remaining at the outlet for parts of seven years.
Sports Illustrated Union Responds After Accusations of AI-Generated Articles by Fake Writers
The letter was signed as “The Humans of the SI Union”.
Sports Illustrated faced backlash across social media from readers and employees alike on Monday following a report from Futurism that found AI-generated articles and writer profiles were published on its website.
The report spotlighted instances where the misplaced, often oddly worded listicles were peppered across SI.com, even shuffled around with different fake author attributions. The article even traced the photo used for the fake author profiles to an AI-generated headshot site which could be purchased online.
It turns out that SI’s parent company, The Arena Group, claims it licensed out a third-party company called AdVon Commerce to create product reviews for not just SI but its other owned sites. When Futurism questioned The Arena Group about the use of the AI content, the articles and author profiles quickly disappeared. The company put out a statement Monday afternoon but has not offered any other explanations since.
“Today, an article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles. According to our initial investigation, this is not accurate,” a statement from The Arena Group read. “A number of AdVon’s e-commerce articles ran on certain Arena websites. We continually monitor our partners and were in the midst of a review when these allegations were raised.”
“AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans,” the statement continued. “According to AdVon, their writers, editors, and researchers create and curate content and follow a policy that involves using both counter-plagiarism and counter-AI software on all content. However, we have learned that AdVon had writers use a pen or pseudo name in certain articles to protect author privacy – actions we strongly condemn – and we are removing the content while our internal investigation continues and have since ended the partnership.”
The SI Union offered a response itself, condemning the parent company for agreeing to publish the content.
“If true, these practices violate everything we believe in about journalism,” the union statement read. “We deplore being associated with something so disrespectful to our readers.”
“We want to be very clear: What is described in this Futurism story does not represent the hardworking journalists who make up the SI Union,” the statement concludes. “For nearly 70 years, SI staff members have held themselves to the highest possible ethical standards. As members of the SI Union, we are proud to be part of that legacy and work every day to protect it. We expect management to do the same.”
The statement was signed, “The Humans of the SI Union.”
Several current and former SI employees echoed the union’s sentiments.
The story even got national media attention on The Pat McAfee Show.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.