ESPN BET launched last week, and former ESPN president John Skipper knows this is an opportunity for the worldwide leader to tap into a new source of income.
Skipper, the CEO of Meadowlark Media, David Samson, and Pablo Torre came together last week to record another episode of the sports business podcast Sporting Class, and the trio discussed the streaming era and the cord-cutting age. Among that broader topic included a discussion on the recent launch of the ESPN-branded sportsbook operated by Penn Entertainment.
John Skipper said given that ESPN over the last year or so has had to make a ton of cost-cutting moves, getting into the gambling space somehow was not an unexpected decision.
“I’m also not surprised to see ESPN do this in the face of the declining pay TV universe,” he said. “They have to look for ways to cut expenses, they have to look for other ways to make money, and they’re exploring here whether they can make money this way. Seems like good business to me, and we’ll see what happens.”
Samson said ESPN already made money before ESPN BET even went live, and that’s thanks to the deal the network cut with Penn.
“It’s like a sponsorship deal if you really want to get down to the definition of ESPN BET,” Samson said. “They’re not launching a fledgling gambling app today or yesterday or whatever day this week, they’re getting paid by Penn Gaming. That was the divorce with Barstool, and then it was the re-up with ESPN where ESPN has a revenue stream, a guaranteed revenue stream, from this.”
The discussion did spotlight the potential for ESPN as a news outlet to impact betting lines with reporting. The network recently instituted new policies for employees, insiders and other journalists in particular, ahead of the launch of ESPN BET. The goal of the policies is to prohibit and deter employees who may have inside information on a particular sport, team or player from profiting off that information.
Samson said the average bettor is like the average stock day trader, they’re not savvy or smart enough to really stand to benefit monetarily from listening to so-called betting experts in the media.
“You think the ordinary guy sitting in his underwear on Main Street has the same right to make money as people who do it for a living, who are market makers and movers?” he said. “If you think that, then you’re gonna have a problem with potential issues with ESPN BET where the market could be moved by someone who would have more information and profit on that versus the guy in his undies on Main Street.”
“I don’t personally believe it’s an unmanageable conflict for ESPN,” John Skipper responded.
“The idea that ESPN would engage in, ‘Oh let’s put out that somebody might be injured. We’ll benefit from the line on that through our association with Penn,’ it’s just ridiculous,” he later added.
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.