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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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Sports Digital

Austin Karp: Combining the Expertise of ‘New Paramount’ Bodes Well for the Future of CBS Sports

“CBS has long relied on sports…and with Jeff Shell coming in as President, we are talking about former NBCUniversal Jeff Shell, sports aren’t going anywhere.

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Austin Karp and Mollie Cahillane of the Sports Business Journal talked about the merger of David Ellison’s Skydance Media and Paramount on the latest edition of The Sports Media Podcast. While there are many hurdles to clear, the terms of the deal were agreed to and the structure set with Ellison set to become CEO of the new company some are calling ‘New Paramount’ and former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell coming on as president.

Karp asked Cahillane, “What is the biggest impact on sports for this deal?”

“I do not think the merger of Skydance and Paramount, more of a takeover rather than a merger, is going to have a massive impact on their sports properties,” Cahillane said. “CBS has long relied on sports…and with Jeff Shell coming in as President, we are talking about former NBCUniversal Jeff Shell, sports aren’t going anywhere. I don’t see them as part of any of the offloading that is planned for the Paramount properties.”

“I don’t think that sports is going anywhere, it’s actually going to be helped, if anything,” Karp agreed. “Like you said, Jeff Shell, seasoned sports executive…the guy knows sports in and out and so does David Ellison, the owner of Skydance.

“Skydance Sports, for a couple of years now, has been a marquee partner of the NFL in terms of creating content. They’ve done some of the documentaries, like the Jerry Jones one that was just sold for $50 million to Netflix. They’re the ones that were kind of behind the Kansas City Chiefs doing this movie with Hallmark that’s going to be coming out…If you combine the expertise that RedBird Capital, which is some of the money behind Skydance, has in sports, it really portends well for the future of CBS Sports and Paramount as a player out there in the space.”

According to Variety, Skydance said the deal has an enterprise value of $28 billion, with Skydance itself valued at $4.75 billion. Skydance and its partners will reportedly invest more than $8 billion into the company.

The projected closing date for the sale is by Sept. 30, 2025.

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Chase Daniel and Dianna Russini to Host ‘Scoop City’ Podcast for The Athletic

“We have scoop on football and some scoop on life.”

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Logo for the Athletic and a picture of Scoop City hosts Chase Daniel and Dianna Russini
Graphic Courtesy: The Athletic

Chase Daniel hinted at big things coming up when he talked with BSM a few weeks ago. Now, one of those big things has been revealed. Daniel and The Athletic’s senior NFL Insider Dianna Russini are pairing up for a twice a week podcast, ‘Scoop City.’ The show is described as one where the hosts will “share what they’re hearing about the things that are actually at work in the NFL – and to share a few scoops about life too.”

A trailer for the podcast is up and the first episode is scheduled to drop on July 16 at all major podcast outlets.

“We want to share with you what people inside the NFL are talking about, pass along intel, and talk to big guests,” Russini wrote on her X account. “We have scoop on football and some scoop on life.”

Daniel posted, “Scoop City is here! So pumped to announce I’ll be part of The Athletic’s brand new essential NFL podcast with Dianna Russini [two times] per week.”

Russini had been with ESPN from 2015 until joining The Athletic late in 2023. Daniel, a former star quarterback at Missouri, played 13 years in the NFL and has been providing content for The Athletic and NFL Network in addition to a podcast he co-hosted with Trey Wingo and The Chase Daniel Show which he airs on his YouTube page.

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Sports Digital

John Ourand: NFL Sunday Ticket Trial is a ‘Colossal Failure’ By the League

“Once it got in front of a jury, yeah, they just took a big risk, and the big risk blew up in their face.”

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John Ourand

A jury in Los Angeles federal court sided with plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the National Football League last month, leading to an order for the league to pay approximately $4.7 billion in damages. The lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of over 2.4 million residential subscribers and more than 48,000 commercial establishments, alleged that the league violated antitrust law through its out-of-market NFL Sunday Ticket product. The jury vote claims that the league colluded with DirecTV, the former primary home of the service, along with broadcast networks CBS and FOX to raise the price of subscriptions in order to watch out-of-market contests.

There could be extensive repercussions and reverberations with this lawsuit depending on what happens within the appeals process. In a statement released shortly after the jury vote was announced, the league stated that it will appeal the decision. Since the class action suit pertains to federal antitrust law, the damages would be tripled and equate to more than $14 billion. The jury ordered the league to pay $96.9 million in damages to the commercial class and $4.61 billion in damages to the residential class within the lawsuit. John Ourand, sports correspondent for Puck News, recently appeared on The Tony Kornheiser Show where he articulated the scenario surrounding the seminal decision.

“This is a colossal failure by the NFL in that they took a basically $14 billion risk and put it in front of a jury,” Ourand said, “and when you get a jury, specifically in southern California, to decide, ‘Would you rather rule for a small bar or a small business owner or would you rather rule for the big NFL where Roger Goodell came in and was a witness?,’ almost always they’ll side with the NFL.”

The NFL filed a motion last week where the league levied criticism against U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez in permitting a juror to remain within the case who admitted that they had paid for a “household member’s Sunday Ticket subscription.” Moreover, the league conveyed that the jury, including the aforementioned juror who was a foreperson in the deliberations, chose to issue damages representative of “the sum total of discounts that class members received.”

The plaintiffs in the case delineated that the lack of competition between the league’s 32 teams as it pertains to media rights resulted in higher prices for consumers, whereas the league outlined that it guarantees access to games anywhere in the United States and makes them free for local fans.

“It was explained to me by one lawyer,” Ourand said, “[that] it would be akin to like if all the soda companies got together and [went], ‘You know what? We’re going to sell soda at this price,’ and there are antitrust laws that are against pooling those resources like that if they’re competing against each other.”

Once Kornheiser found out that the trial had been going on for nearly a decade, he gave an incredulous reaction and wondered why the league had been “so stupid” that it did not attempt to settle the case before reaching trial. Ourand listened to some of the testimony within the case and gathered that Guttierez was siding with the NFL because it was the way the league had enacted its media business for a long time.

“They’ve pooled their media rights and they’ve sold them to networks exclusively,” Ourand said of the league. “Once it got in front of a jury, yeah, they just took a big risk, and the big risk blew up in their face.”

The appeal for the case, Ourand explained, would likely take a long time because the league would have to go to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and potentially to the United States Supreme Court from there. Gutierrez will hold a hearing on July 31 reviewing the motion filed by the league that could result in deeming the jury’s decision irrational or ordering a new trial altogether. The outcome of this hearing could also result in retaining the verdict but reducing the damages or denying the NFL’s motion altogether. A ruling could either be released that day or issue it through a written filing in the weeks thereafter.

Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League negotiated settlements for class action lawsuits regarding blackouts of games and having to subscribe to a service that included the breadth of regional sports networks within those leagues. Consumers were essentially not given a choice to subscribe to one regional sports network; rather, they were coerced to purchase a package containing games on networks they were not interested in watching.

Both leagues agreed to settlements of their respective cases in providing options to purchase single-team packages at a discount while also retaining blackout policies. Ourand believes the decision in this case could result in a maelstrom of derivative lawsuits pertaining to deals that leagues have agreed on in this regard and is looking into who pushed the NFL to continue its defense in the case rather than settling. Kornheiser presumed that one of the league’s lawyers must have been behind the decision, a sentiment with which Ourand concurred.

“Certainly their lawyers, and ultimately it comes down to Roger Goodell who makes the decision whether to go or not,” Ourand explained, “but who was the real force between saying like, ‘Let’s just draw a hard line here. We’re tired of these class action suits,’ and what this has caused is they’re going to be a billion class action suits filed against every single league and every single deal that they’ve done.”

Kornheiser replied that Ourand was correct in his prognostication about what would happen next. Earlier in the segment, he suggested that all the league had to do was lower the price for bars from $349 to $275 and that they would collectively be content with the outcome. Kornheiser stated that he still subscribes to cable and watches NFL RedZone rather than subscribing to NFL Sunday Ticket during the football season as well.

“If I was the commissioner of hockey, if I was the commissioner of basketball [or] if I was the commissioner of baseball, I’d have my lawyers in there today and I’d say, ‘Let’s get out of these things that we’ve been doing because we don’t want this to happen to us,’ right?,” Kornheiser said.

“And I’d be furious at the NFL for taking such a risk in this case – absolutely, yeah,” Ourand replied.

NFL Sunday Ticket is currently available through YouTube and YouTube TV as part of a media rights deal reportedly valued at $2 billion annually over seven years. The broadcast package was previously distributed by DirecTV since its inception 1994, which is said to have paid $1.5 billion per year. DirecTV is not involved in the NFL Sunday Ticket trial after a judge permitted the company to send customer claims against it into closed-door arbitration.

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