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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.”

Ricky Keeler

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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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Barstool Sports CEO: Golf Likely Next Step For Company’s Live Broadcasts

“I think we‘ll start with the biggest sports that we know and love.”

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Barstool Sports CEO Erika Nardini recently did a wide-ranging interview with AdAge.com about the future of the digital sports outlet’s television aspirations, and she said sports they’re familiar with will take priority.

“”We want sports that appeal to a broad audience. We’re kind of tickled to be able to broadcast things in the first place. So I think we‘ll start with the biggest sports that we know and love, whether it’s basketball and football,” Nardini said. “You could definitely see that extended to golf, that would probably be the next place that we’ll play.”

The questions about Barstool’s future aspirations come after the company’s successful first broadcast of the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl. Barstool says the broadcast received nearly 1 million views, peaking at 130,000 concurrent viewers. The outlet also broadcasted the Barstool Sports Invitational that featured Akron, Mississippi State, Toledo, and UAB in November.

Nardini added that the company is interested live televised sports for a few reasons.

“We’re owned by a sports betting company and the more we think about building our sports platform, there’s obviously a huge opportunity for us to convey a whole bunch of offerings to our audience, but certainly betting will be one of them…I think that live sports on television is the last man standing where it’s all anyone tunes in for.”

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Fanatics to Open First Sportsbook Inside FedEx Field

“The location at the home of the Washington Commanders will make it the first sportsbook to open inside an NFL stadium.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Sports licensing giant Fanatics will soon be launching its long-anticipated sportsbook.

The company will open up a physical sportsbook location in Maryland at FedEx Field on January 20. Fanatics has also been granted a license to operate in Massachusetts, tethered to Plainridge Park Casino.

The location at the home of the Washington Commanders will make it the first sportsbook to open inside an NFL stadium. Bettors in the DMV will now be able to place wagers at all their local teams’ venues, as William Hill has an on-site location at Capital One Arena – home of the Capitals and Wizards – and BetMGM has a space at Nationals Park in D.C.

Despite having a physical location at FedEx Field, bettors in Maryland will not be able to place mobile wagers through a Fanatics Sportsbook app.

According to Front Office Sports, Fanatics hopes to have the sportsbook up and running in some fashion in all states where legal by September.

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Pat McAfee Teases Major New Partnership

“We didn’t sleep much the last couple days so we haven’t really gotten to grasp this entire thing.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Up to something season has returned for Pat McAfee.

McAfee has routinely used that phrasing to tease viewers and listeners about major dealings in the works, and on Wednesday he said something big is coming down the pike.

“We’re up to something,” McAfee said. “We got a big partnership coming up. It’s big. We haven’t even chatted about this at all. That’s how much we’ve evolved.”

Pat continued about how the show has matured, saying he was proud they waited until this late in the game to even bring up the fact they’ve got a new deal to announce.

“If this conversation had taken place three years ago, the announcement we’re about to make, it would’ve been two weeks worth of the show,” he said. “Every single segment would’ve been brought back to oh something’s coming, something’s coming, something’s coming.”

“That is changing quickly in a big way,” he added.

McAfee noted that being on the road in Los Angeles for the college football national championship has made the reaction to the new partnership somewhat subdued.

“I should be more excited,” he said. “We didn’t sleep much the last couple days so we haven’t really gotten to grasp this entire thing. We’ve been working on this for a couple years now. Good for us, dude.”

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