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John Skipper Says Four Super Conferences Are Coming

“…the Big10, who I believe just added the most populous state in the United States to their footprint, which I think has gone underrecognized in this move.”

Ricky Keeler

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With the reported moves of USC and UCLA going to the Big 10 in 2024, many have shared their opinions on what it means for college football going forward. One person who was at the heart of negotiating TV deals for college football and college basketball was the former president of ESPN, John Skipper.

Skipper was a guest on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Thursday and he made the point that an “arms race” is developing in college sports and it is clear that the Big 10 and SEC have emerged as the two leaders:

“Now we are in kind of an arms race where everybody wants to move to a conference in order to get more money. We are coming to an era of diminishing returns in terms of just being able to move somewhere and get a bunch more money. I think it’s clear the Big 10 and SEC have emerged as the dominant players here, particularly in terms of ratings and achievement on the football field.

The SEC’s rights are tied up until 2034 and the Big 10 is probably going to have 2 new rounds of rights negotiations before 2034, so they are in a very good position to get more money. With the streamers looking to come in, they look to take advantage of that as well.”

One of the things Skipper doesn’t think is being talked about enough in realignment is what states these schools are in and how it can help a network gain more money. He remembers first-hand the deal he negotiated with the ACC when Pittsburgh, Boston College, Syracuse, and Louisville joined the conference:

“One of the more important ones we did was with the ACC. One of the big moves made was when the ACC was in danger of losing its basketball prominence to the Big East and not seeing the same kind of increases the Big 10 and SEC were. They went and took Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College, and Louisville to the ACC.”

“One of the most important factors is what state they are in. For the ACC, Big 10, and SEC, all of whom have their own well-distributed networks. Pittsburgh, Boston College, Louisville and Syracuse both created a diminution of competition in the Big East, but it also added Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and Kentucky to the footprint of the ACC. Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts represent quite a lot of population and those network deals are paid based on footprint and non-footprint. One price for the state and where the subscribers live within the footprint and the price if they don’t live in the footprint. I expect that to be the case with the Big10, who I believe just added the most populous state in the United States to their footprint, which I think has gone underrecognized in this move.” 

So, what could be in the future for college sports? Skipper gave out the hypothetical that if he were running the ACC, for example, he would try to see if four super conferences were forming and what it could mean for both college football and basketball:

“I would be calling around to see if there are going to be four super conferences of 16 or so teams, which I think there will be. How about we create four super conferences and do our own basketball tournament? I also think if you created four, 16-team conferences, you have 32 bowls and every team in the conferences would go to a bowl and you might even use those bowls to play the First Round of a very expansive College Football Playoff. There’s plenty of ways to get more money in addition to trying to figure out what can be done with Amazon and Apple.”

Sports TV News

Leafs Nation Network, the Toronto Maple Leafs Channel, Is Going Off the Air

“Thank you for your viewership. As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

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The Toronto Maple Leafs launched Leafs TV, a team-specific specialty channel in 2001 and rebranded it as Leafs Nation Network in 2017. However, after nearly twenty-one years on the air, it will fade to black at the end of August.

“Thank you for your viewership,” the channel told viewers who have tuned in recently. “As of Sept. 1, Leafs Nation Network TV services will no longer be on air.”

The news was confirmed to the Sun. Staff said they had been informed of the news a few weeks ago however few jobs are expected to be lost, of any, as many of the LNN duties will be moved to the digital format.

Leafs TV was part of the sale of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise sale in 2011 to Bell-Rogers communications (worth $1.32 billion). With that sale, Leafs TV began to become a “redundant” channel focusing mainly on classic games and interviews once Rogers made a 2014 deal to become the dominant NHL network, grabbing the majority of live programming.

“Leafs TV was a big bargaining chip at the time of the (Rogers-Bell sale), but they’ve come to see that (lack of game broadcast presence) doesn’t work,” a source told the Sun.

A statement from MLSE on Tuesday read in part: “With new and increasing opportunities to share content on its digital platforms, subscribers to the Leafs Nation Network were informed earlier this month that the channel would cease being broadcast on Sept. 1. Maple Leafs game day and practice coverage will continue to be shared across the team’s digital platforms, combined with exciting new content on the team’s social and digital channels. The team will continue to produce live Marlies home games with details being shared in the weeks ahead about where those broadcasts will be made available.”

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Stephen A. Smith Says He Wants Mike Francesa on First Take

Russo smiled and chirped back, ““You can’t beat me, you’re never gonna beat him.”

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Stephen A. Smith, Mike Francesa

Stephen A. Smith seems to be looking to debate every major media personality with big opinions and he has set his eyes on Mike Francesa.

Smith was on First Take on Wednesday with weekly guest Chris “Mad Dog” Russo and chastising Russo for being upset with Aaron Rodgers calling out his wide receivers. That’s when Smith brought up the former WFAN tandem of Mike and the Mad Dog.

“The thing that disappoints me about you,” Smith said to Russo, “you’re upset with honesty. You are not only hosting your own radio show, you have your own channel.”

Smith continued, “You are one of the pioneers if not THE pioneer with Mike Francesa, who, by the way, I got to get him on this show one day too, with you. You understand what I’m saying? I mean it would be my honor to have Mike Francesa too.”

Russo smiled and chirped back, ““You can’t beat me, you’re never gonna beat him.”

Smith returned once more with “I ain’t scared. I’m never gonna beat him, but I’ll try, damn it.”

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Stephen A. Smith: ‘I Had To Wait Until My Mother Passed to Write My Book’

“I’ve never ran before, so there was no way I was going to start with this book.”

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An autobiography from Stephen A. Smith is due in stores early next year. Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes is an all-encompassing look at the First Take star’s life from his childhood to today.

Smith appreciates privacy and has been hesitant to talk about his personal life in the past. Occasionally he has made exceptions for shows hosted by friends and people in the business that he respects.

On Wednesday’s episode of First Take, Stephen A. Smith said that was largely due to a promise he made to his mother.

“She told me never to write a book until she passed away, because she knows I’m gonna say what I need to say,” he told Molly Qerim and Chris Russo. “I’m gonna speak my mind and I’m gonna speak my truth. There are things in there that she would not have wanted me to reveal while she was alive.”

He added that writing it made him more uncomfortable than he anticipated.

“There’s a lot in there that I didn’t want to tell, but if you gonna write a book, you gotta tell it.”

Russo joked that clearly Smith is excited. He had texted the New York radio legend the cover and some information about the book earlier in the summer.

Qerim has received some of that material too. She told Smith that what she has seen and read is very impressive.

“This is huge, and I’m proud of you. It’s hard to tell. I know you’ve kept your personal life close to the vest. For you to open up, I think people are going to respect you even more when they learn more about you.”

Stephen A. Smith noted that in addition to his childhood and his professional triumphs, the book will also revisit the controversies that surrounded him at points in his career. He noted the goal of the book was not necessarily to make him look good, but to help people better understand the man they see on TV each morning.

“I’ve never ran before, so there was no way I was going to start with this book,” Smith said.

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