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John Skipper: ‘Simply Not True’ ESPN Won’t Cover Leagues It Doesn’t Have Rights With

“I never instructed people to put more highlights of games that we had on-the-air.”

Ricky Keeler

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On The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz: The Big Suey podcast on Friday, Le Batard talked with former ESPN president and current Meadowlark Media CEO John Skipper and former Marlins president and current CBS Sports analyst David Samson about some of the big issues in sports. During the podcast, Samson brought up that he felt — when he was with the Marlins — SportsCenter  spent more time on events they had the rights to.

“There’s a direct correlation between the number of minutes SportsCenter would spend on sports that they held the rights to versus the sports they didn’t. Literally a direct correlation.

“I can go through where MLB was in SportsCenter because we would monitor it and when you guys dropped Baseball Tonight or when ESPN would add a Sunday night game…What about hockey? Where was hockey on SportsCenter until the rights went to ESPN and all of a sudden you hire Barry Melrose.”

Samson mentioned that MLB would do a detailed study of where teams were on nightly SportsCenters and which block of the show certain teams would be featured in.

“We would study this. We would know exactly where on SportsCenter the highlights were, which teams were getting highlights and how often, what block they were in, what minute of the block they were in.”

Skipper denied the accusation from Samson and he brought up when ESPN did not have hockey, they had to take a different approach to covering the sport.

“It’s not true. We lost hockey when I was there and we got accused that hockey never shows up anymore. Hockey highlights were very close to the same on SportsCenter when we had it and didn’t have it. The only difference was you would use SportsCenter as a marketing tool so you would go to the arena and say hey, there’s Barry Melrose on the ice. We had a game coming up. ‘Barry, tell us about what we are going to see.’ That was different. But, when the Rangers played the Bruins, we still had the highlight on and nobody ever said don’t put the highlights on.”

In fact, even when Skipper wanted to get more highlights of women’s sports on ESPN, he told Le Batard that nobody at the company went through with that idea.

“The only time I ever said you must put more highlights on was I said we need more women’s highlights. I’m telling you that you must put more women’s highlights on and by the way, they didn’t listen to me. They didn’t do it. Every league makes the assumption that ESPN buries the leagues they aren’t in business with. It’s just not true.”

One call that Skipper would get sometimes was from former MLB commissioner Bud Selig saying there was not enough MLB coverage on a particular show.

“I used to actually get calls from the Commissioner, Mr. Selig would be up in the morning watching Mike and Mike and he would call me saying not enough baseball today. I know you were paying attention, but I never instructed people to put more highlights of games that we had on-the-air….They take pride in doing the show without regards to the ESPN business.” 

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Ian Rapoport: I Have Never Thought It is Me vs Adam Schefter

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows.”

Jordan Bondurant

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In terms of NFL insiders, Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter are the two biggest names out there. And sometimes it can be a race between the two to get the biggest scoops first. Especially now with the NFL coaching carousel in full swing.

This week two teams hired new head coaches – the Broncos traded two first round picks to the Saints to acquire the rights to Sean Payton and the Texans signed DeMeco Ryans.

Rapoport tweeted that Denver had pursued Ryans up until the day they announced the trade for Payton.

Not even 15 minutes later, Schefter appeared to clarify the information out there with the two teams.

On The Pat McAfee Show on Thursday, Pat McAfee referred to the conflicting information as a “source off.”

Ian said he stood behind what he put out there.

“I know it’s fun to call it a source off or whatever, but for me I reported what I had based on the best information I can get – based on talking to many, many people throughout the course of the last month,” Rapoport said from the Senior Bowl. “And then whatever happens as a result of this I don’t really mind.”

In terms of any sort of rivalry between him and Schefter, Rapoport doesn’t view it as a head-to-head matchup.

“I don’t even think that, it’s just I report what I know, and he reports what he knows,” he said. “And everyone can sort of judge for themselves whichever way to go.”

McAfee gave kudos to Rapoport for his reporting on the Ryans situation. He also said it’s a good thing Rapoport doesn’t worry himself too much about what other insiders are doing.

“I think you should feel good about it, but I do like a good source off,” McAfee said. “And I appreciate the fact that you don’t view it as you versus Schefter. But you two are at the top of the game. So that’s a compliment more so than anything.”

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AEW Considers Launching Streaming Service

“It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.”

Jordan Bondurant

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All Elite Wrestling is looking into launching its own streaming service.

According to reporting from Bloomberg, a source “familiar with management’s thinking” said AEW is looking to strike a deal with broadcast partner Warner Bros. Discovery.

Since launching in 2019, AEW now puts on two weekly shows on Warner channels TBS and TNT and airs two shows on YouTube.

Last year AEW acquired Ring of Honor from Sinclair Broadcast Group. As part of that deal, AEW took ownership of RoH’s extensive content library Honor Club. So much like WWE did with WWE Network when it launched in 2014, AEW could launch its streaming service and have all of Ring of Honor’s content in a one-stop shop.

It’s possible an AEW streaming service could be independent, but many are hopeful AEW’s offerings would be available on HBO Max or Discovery+ akin to how WWE Network is now available on Peacock.

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NBC Officially Unveils Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge as New Big Ten Booth

“With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

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It’s officially official: Noah Eagle, Todd Blackledge, and Kathryn Tappen will join the Big Ten on NBC booth when the network begins airing the conference’s football package in 2023.

NBC made the announcement Thursday, after weeks of speculation about the moves.

“We are excited to showcase Big Ten Saturday Night on the NBC Sports’ primetime marquee,” said NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood. “When you hear Todd’s voice, you know it’s a big college football game. It has been that way for decades.

“Noah is one of the industry’s rising young play-by-play commentators, who has excelled calling numerous sports across multiple platforms for a wide range of audiences. We are thrilled to pair him in the booth with Todd.

“Kathryn has told the stories of so many memorable Notre Dame Football moments over the last decade in her on-field reporting and interviews,” Flood continued. “With their collective college football experience and great enthusiasm for the game, Todd, Noah and Kathryn join a production team that can’t wait to kick off the Big Ten season.”

Blackledge joins NBC after working as a college football analyst for the network for the past 17 seasons. Previously, he was the an analyst for CBS and ABC, making 2023 his 30th consecutive season covering college football as an analyst.

Eagle is the son of broadcasting legend Ian Eagle, and currently serves as the radio voice of the Los Angeles Clippers. He comes to NBC after calling college football games for FOX Sports in 2022.

Tappen has spent the past nine seasons working NBC’s college football coverage with Notre Dame. Eight of those nine seasons were spent as the network’s sideline reporter before anchoring the studio coverage from South Bend in 2022.

2023 will mark the beginning of a seven-year contract for NBC to air Big Ten football games in primetime. The move is one of the biggest notable expansions in the college football arena for the network since its partnership with Notre Dame began in 1991.

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