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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.”

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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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Bomani Jones: ‘Tim Anderson Asked Me To Interview Him’

“I got to comport myself in such a way that dudes I cover respect me, if I want them to talk to me. I have to go the extra mile in terms of earning respect if I want to have these cats listen to me.”

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Josh Donaldson and Tim Anderson were all over the news last week after the two exchanged words during the Yankees-White Sox series. Over the course of two days, an altercation between the two started a bench-clearing brawl, and then a second altercation occurred when Donaldson called Tim Anderson “Jackie,” a reference to Jackie Robinson.

Bomani Jones was one of the few people in the media to land an on-camera interview with Anderson for his podcast, The Right Time, where they got a chance to discuss what really took place during that moment.

Donaldson’s “Jackie” comment was a reference to a Sports Illustrated article from 2019 in which Anderson referred to himself as being similar to the Dodgers Hall of Famer. Anderson said publicly that it may have been a joke to Donaldson, but it did not feel that way to him.

On Friday’s edition of his show, former NFL player and current ESPN NFL analyst Domonique Foxworth asked Jones how he landed an interview with Anderson. Jones said Anderson was the one pursuing him.

“He sent me a DM and was like yo, I want to talk,” Jones said to Foxworth. “I not gonna lie to y’all, he was hoping to not have to do media availability so we were sitting on it because we wanted it to be the big surprise, we wanted to drop the big joker when all the spades have been played.”

The trust level between an athlete and a reporter is arguably the most important thing for any journalist. Jones said he has had to build that trust in a different way from many in his position.

“I didn’t come up reporting, I wasn’t on the ground. And so I am in a lot of ways the dude sitting in his house popping off at people. I get every criticism that comes with that, so as a result, I got to comport myself in such a way that dudes I cover respect me, if I want them to talk to me. I have to go the extra mile in terms of earning respect if I want to have these cats listen to me. So for me it feels good when something like that happens because it means my goal, at least with that one person has been achieved.”

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John Skipper: ‘Tom Brady is a Very Expensive Trophy for FOX’

“I think for Tom Brady’s pride, he had to be paid the most money because he is the greatest of all-time.”

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The NFL broadcasting world went through a series of massive changes this offseason. Outside of the No. 1 crew at CBS (Jim Nantz and Tony Romo), every other network will have new faces appear on our television screens during game days.

Out of the large amounts of money being thrown around at various networks in the industry, it was Tom Brady’s massive 10-year,  $375-million broadcasting deal with FOX that turned a lot of heads. Not only does the deal indicate that the seven-time Super Bowl champ will be retiring in the very near future, but some, including Dan Le Batard, wondered why such a fortune was being given to someone who has “never said anything interesting'” during his career in the NFL.

During the “local hour” of his popular show on Thursday, Le Batard welcomed former ESPN president and his Meadowlark Media partner, John Skipper. He expressed a similar.

“There’s very little economic value. He’s a very, very expensive trophy,” Skipper said on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. “I think he’ll probably be okay on the game. It doesn’t really matter that much other than for pride and I guess he’ll shake advertisers’ hands.”

To put into context how massive Brady’s deal is, the future Hall of Famer will not only be making more in 10-years than he has throughout his entire 20+ year NFL career ($302.96 million in total earnings) but he will also be leapfrogging broadcast vet Troy Aikman–getting paid twice the amount of the former Cowboys QBs’ new deal with ESPN.

 “I think for Tom Brady’s pride, he had to be paid the most money because he is the greatest of all-time,” Skipper said.

Skipper continues to add that the money FOX gave Brady could’ve been put to better use, making a more significant impact in other areas of the business, including securing live event rights.

He then brought up Mike Tirico, who called Monday Night Football at ESPN during Skipper’s tenure at the network. No matter how much faith he had in the play-by-play man, Skipper said he didn’t feel the need to overspend on a partner to help him shine.

“I put Mike Tirico in the booth and thought he did an outstanding job, but I would not have paid any ex-player $15, $20, or $25 million to sit next to him.”

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North Carolina Lawmakers Expect Mobile Sports Betting By Football Season

“North Carolina’s neighbors, including Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, have already legalized mobile sports betting.”

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It is already legal to place bets in North Carolina on sporting events. It is just incredibly difficult. Bets can only be made inside of 2 Cherokee casinos in the western part of the state. That could change before football season.

The State Senate, which is politically divided, passed SB 688 last year. If it makes it through the State House, it would become law and North Carolinians could then theoretically place bets online legally.

SB 88 was sponsored by Paul Lowe, a Democrat from Forsyth County. He told WRAL-TV in Raleigh that he is optimistic about what will happen in the House.

“We just want to make sure we have drummed up the votes, and I think we have,” he said. “I feel confident about it.”

North Carolina’s neighbors, including Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, have already legalized mobile sports betting.

Politically, North Carolina is considered a purple state. That is showing up in the effort to legalize mobile wagering. One of the bill’s biggest advocates in the House is Jason Saine, a Republican from Lincoln County.

“We’re ready to rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve not heard any new opposition,” he told WRAL. “I think we have a pretty smooth glide path once we do kind of start rolling into session.”

The state’s Lottery Commission would oversee sports gambling. If the SB 688 is passed, operators would pay $500,000 for a five-year license, which can be renewed for $100,000. They would also pay an 8% tax on adjusted gross revenue. Both of those numbers are low compared to other states.

“Once we pass this bill, there’s some tweaks we’re going to do,” Lowe said. “But right now we’re just trying to get it out of the chute.”

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