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Dan Le Batard: I Am Tired of Talking About Sports Media

“[L]iving it over the last few years has been quite the illuminating experience because our business is changing.”

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Dan Le Batard

Dan Le Batard is tired of talking about sports media, but he feels a need to discuss the topic because he has lived it and experienced the changing nature of the business firsthand over the last several years. With alterations in consumption trends and platforms of dissemination, he has watched what Pat McAfee was able to do in creating his own show and licensing episodes to ESPN throughout the year in a multiplatform deal.

Stephen A. Smith owns and operates his own production company with an independent show while continuing to appear on First Take and NBA Countdown. Moreover, he helped facilitate Shannon Sharpe joining First Take on ESPN and commencing a new era of his media career that has included the growth of Shay Shay Media in doing podcasts with The Volume including Club Shay Shay and Nightcap.

During the pandemic, Le Batard and his radio program left ESPN and began operating within a new digital venture, Meadowlark Media. Le Batard co-founded the company with former ESPN president John Skipper, which has since introduced a variety of original programming, inked a distribution deal with DraftKings Network, is working with All The Smoke Productions and is involved in documentary storytelling as well.

“[L]iving it over the last few years has been quite the illuminating experience because our business is changing,” Le Batard said on The Dan Le Batard with Stugotz. “Anybody who’s been with us for this long knows everything that happened with us, and it’s an interesting thing to, in the pandemic, leave a safe thing that’s changing and just sort of push ourselves into an unknown future where you’re fighting for yourself, you’re self-employed and the media landscape is totally changing.”

Le Batard also mentioned how Travis and Jason Kelce were able to build their own podcast, titled New Heights, that has catapulted to success and what JJ Redick is doing with ThreeFourTwo Productions and ESPN while potentially becoming an NBA head coach next season. In fact, he outlined that the decision Redick is ultimately making if reports are true that suggest he is in the running for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job is whether he wants to podcast with or coach LeBron James next season.

“They all just realized, Stugotz, all of them,” Le Batard said, referring to athletes working in sports media. ‘Wait, all I’ve got to do is beat Le Batard and beat Stephen A.? All I’ve got to do is beat Cowherd? Wait, look, the punter McAfee can do that? How did he do that? I’m more famous than him.’”

Le Batard believes that it is facile for athletes to conquer the sports media space, as evidenced by the previous examples he outlined within the segment. Moreover, he adumbrated more insights as to how he has perceived the landscape over the last several years.

“Now JJ Redick – and I’m sorry if you’re tired of hearing it – but it’s been my life for three years and it’s been the second-worst thing in my life in those three years, because all of these athletes are coming for gambling money that is keeping the entire industry alive as ESPN and Disney shake so much that they got to rent to McAfee and here comes Kelce and Shannon Sharpe,” Le Batard said. “‘How do I use your platform to build what Stephen A. Smith did?,’ as Stephen A. Smith, every day on their air from 10 to noon is selling, ‘I’m in a contract year. I’m the biggest voice you got, and I’m about to be a free agent to do whatever I want.’”

As it pertains to Smith in particular, Le Batard is not particularly fond of some of the things he does to broaden his audience because he does not always perceive the size of such to be most important. Nonetheless, he recognizes how he has gone about building his brand over the last several years both appearing on ESPN and through his own independent ventures.

“There has never been anyone better because look at the teammates he has now, Stugotz,” Le Batard said. “He’s gone and grabbed the best you can grab at what it is that they do, which is make good television, and he’s got total power in a contract year…. and he’s got a production deal, so it’s the big salary plus, ‘How do I build this with ESPN?,’ because you don’t think that Omaha Productions and Tom Brady and Stephen A. – you don’t think he wants to compete with them there for big money?”

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John Skipper: Charles Barkley is Probably the ‘Most Valuable Pundit’ There Is

“If he worked for a network I was in charge of, I would be very discomfited by his going around and telling me how to do my job.”

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Charles Barkley
Courtesy: Jamie Schwaberow, NBAE via Getty Images

As the NBA reportedly formalizes deals with The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC), NBCUniversal and Amazon’s Prime Video to be its next media rights partners, questions still remain about the future of Warner Bros. Discovery and the league. Turner properties have been broadcasting the NBA since the 1984-85 season on TBS, and the NBA on TNT has significant brand equity with the league with its lineup of broadcasters and the heralded studio program, Inside the NBA. Charles Barkley, who has been a member of the studio program since 2000, has been open about his own sentiment surrounding the company and how it has handled the negotiations with the NBA.

On numerous occasions over the last month, he has appeared on various sports talk programs to give his perspective. During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, Barkley excoriated the work of David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive officer and president, questioning how the company exited its 90-day exclusive negotiating window with the league without a deal. Although there is reportedly still a possibility that Warner Bros. Discovery could land a smaller package of games pooled from regional sports networks or potentially execute its matching rights provision, although the provisions under such are ambiguous, the future remains unclear.

David Samson, the former president of the Miami Marlins, expressed on The Sporting Class podcast from Meadowlark Media that he could not stop thinking about Barkley’s conduct and remarked that he has an extraordinary amount of power. He envisioned his co-host John Skipper, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Meadowlark Media, watching Barkley indignant and having smoke come out of his ears.

“If he worked for a network I was in charge of, I would be very discomfited by his going around and telling me how to do my job,” Skipper said, “so I suspect he’s not making the David Zaslav summer barbecue.”

Samson finds the situation fascinating and conveyed that he had not heard another broadcaster do it in the same way as Barkley. Earlier in the NBA Playoffs, Barkley expressed that he could consider taking Inside the NBA independent with his production company. After host Ernie Johnson signed off Inside the NBA at the end of the Western Conference Finals and stated that next season would be a blast, Barkley remarked that he heard the word “last” at the end instead.

“He’s got another year, and he knows he can’t get fired and he knows Turner’s not getting the deal and he knows he’s a free agent, but he’s going scorched earth, and he needs a better agent,” Samson said. “…I do [think that] because I believe he doesn’t realize there’s only a certain number of bidders, and someone who’s going to sign Barkley is going to say, ‘He just did it to David [Zaslav], he’s going to do it to me next.’”

Skipper did not agree with this point, stating that anyone who had the opportunity to sign Barkley would do so. There has been intrigue surrounding a potential free agency for Barkley should Warner Bros. Discovery officially lose its rights to the NBA. Barkley revealed during an appearance on ESPN Cleveland that he had an opt-out in his contract with the company if it lost broadcasting rights to the NBA.

“Barkley probably is the most valuable pundit that there is,” Skipper said. “There’s a couple of people close, but if you were starting from scratch, you would hire Charles Barkley.”

Barkley was at Amerant Bank Arena for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers, and he appeared for a segment amid the ESPN on ABC intermission report. As host Steve Levy was introducing everyone, he preceded Barkley by questioning if he was the newest member of ESPN’s coverage of the National Basketball Association. Barkley also mentioned that he tried uploading his résumé to LinkedIn but that the platform said that he had never had a real job.

“He went on ESPN, he was on the Stanley Cup,” Samson said. “I couldn’t even believe it. He went on ESPN to complain about Turner. This is a real company – he doesn’t work for TNT; he works for Warner Bros. Discovery.”

Warner Bros. Discovery has fortified its sports portfolio in the last several weeks by acquiring broadcasting rights to the French Open after it had been on NBC Sports for several decades. The company also reached a five-year deal to sublicense College Football Playoff games from ESPN, which begins with two first-round games this upcoming season. Although TNT Sports chairman and chief executive officer Luis Silberwasser expressed that the French Open did not have anything to do with the NBA, Samson believed that the company is trying to justify its sports tier and “building some critical mass.” Skipper considers Silberwasser’s statement to be genuine and underscored how long it can take to get certain deals done.

“The negotiating window Turner had just passed, what, 60 days ago at most, and these negotiations have been going on longer, and they have another year, which you just pointed out which people forget, so the distribution fees can’t go down for a year,” Skipper said to Samson. “I do think they’ll execute that strategy David, I’m not disagreeing with that. I’m just suggesting they have credibility with me when they say, ‘We were negotiating for the French Open anyway.’”

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Adam Schefter: ‘I Think My Life is Boring’

“Billy, that may be the smartest, truest thing you’ve ever said on this show.”

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Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter has been covering the National Football League since 1990 and established himself into a respected journalist in the business. As the senior NFL insider at ESPN, he appears across the network’s programming and divulges the latest news and developments around the league. Schefter recently appeared on Meadowlark Media’s God Bless Football podcast to talk about what is taking place as minicamps occur around the NFL. Aside from this though, he also spoke about how his mother was a guest on the same podcast one week prior.

Billy Gil, a producer and on-air personality for Meadowlark Media, ran into Schefter’s mother on an elevator during a cruise. Gil explained after the fact that he had met someone who changed the world for bringing Schefter into it to break football news. Jon “Stugotz” Weiner, the co-host of the program, conveyed that the NFL news breaking would not have happened without him being in the business. Schefter revealed that he did listen to the podcast and replied to the assertion that the show had made.

“Again, my mom is such a force – she’s so dynamic that I believe that she’s changed the world in her own way,” he said. “I never even associated it with me when he asked that question – I never even thought of it that way.”

Schefter revealed that he gets stopped at the Super Bowl or at football events where people ask him about his mother, evincing the impact that she has made on the world. Weiner replied by stating that they viewed in their own way, which, in reality, differed from the perspective that he took. After having his mother on the show though, Gil wanted to know why Schefter was boring, which led to laughter among the panel.

“You know what?,” Schefter said. “Billy, that may be the smartest, truest thing you’ve ever said on this show.”

Weiner acknowledged that it was a good question from Gil, and Schefter continued by stating that his mother mocks him for being boring all the time. Additionally, he claimed to have “less than zero life” and later doubled down on the fact that his mother thinks he is boring. Weiner believes that his mother set a high bar to match her energy level and not being mundane that it is impossible to duly live up to overall.

“No, I am, in my own way, I have a boring life,” Schefter said. “I don’t think I am boring, but I think my life is boring.”

Gil contested Schefter’s answer by delineating his presumption that every time Schefter enters a room, people want to talk to him. This led Schefter to tell a story about being on Capitol Hill this past week to meet with members of Congress about promoting awareness for people to be screened for Type 1 Diabetes. He was joined by Robin Arzón of Peloton and Grammy award-winning recording artist Usher on his visit. Reflecting back on the experience, he found it exhilarating to be meeting with people about this and discussing a variety of topics, including football.

When Schefter met with Rep. John Joyce, he was surprised to hear that Joyce had read his book, let alone knowing that he had written one in the first place. Joyce also stated that his son, who is autistic, watches Schefter on television, leading him to ask Joyce if he could call his son on the phone. Once his son was on the line, he recognized Schefter’s voice after he simply said his name without any warning that he would be calling.

“You’re a good man Adam Schefter, you really are,” Weiner said.

“Dan and I spoke for 10 minutes,” Schefter said. “I gave him fantasy tips – I set his fantasy lineup. I gave him my sleeper pick that I will not share anywhere. Dan knows it. I’m like, ‘Dan, here’s your last pick in your last round.’ I always have one of these guys…. Again, to get back to the initial thing, I have a very boring life, but yes Billy, I will confirm there are people that do enjoy talking to you sometimes, and that’s nice.”

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Mike Tirico, Greg Olsen, Kate Scott and Brock Huard Added as Voices to Madden NFL 25

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Graphic for the Madden 25 video game from EA Sports with Christian McCaffry on the cover
Graphic Courtesy: EA Sports

Video game and football fans are counting down the days until the August 16 release of the new Madden 25 video game from EA. The date, along with the news that San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey would don the cover was released last week. Today, the EA Sports team posted a blog with several pieces of new information about the game. Included in that was news that Mike Tirico, Greg Olsen, Kate Scott and Brock Huard will be new voices heard on the game.

Those names will join incumbents Brandon Gaudin and Charles Davis and form two additional broadcast teams. Tirico and Olsen, the former NFL TE who now works for FOX Sports and recently took home the Sports Emmy Award for top Event Analyst, will be one team. Scott and Huard will make up the other team. Scott is the current television play-by-play voice of the Philadelphia 76ers who has called preseason NFL games and was also part of Learfield’s College Football Saturday Night . In 2016, she made history, becoming the first woman to call an NFL game on radio and the first woman to call a football game on the Pac-12 Network.

The EA team said, “These new teams are here to refresh your Madden NFL experience and bring it to life with over 42,000 fresh recordings at launch, with multiple in-season updates to keep it fresh.”

The makers of Madden 25 say they have upgraded the look, feel and sound of the game. They explain it by saying, “Dive deeper than ever into the NFL game day experience with an immersive feature set that brings players closer to NFL action than ever before across game modes; from realistic Franchise changes to two brand new commentary crews, you’ll feel so close to the gridiron you can almost smell the all-new 3D turf.” 

EA also said it has added crowd audio from the 2023 NFL season’s Monday Night Football games and NFL Films, “so it doesn’t just feel like realistic crowd noise–it is real crowd noise.” They said the on-field sound effects have been increased and refreshed and now include over 500 samples.

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