ESPN president John Skipper did a featured one-on-one interview to kick off the 17th annual NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference in New York Wednesday, and he pulled no punches when discussing the company’s critics. The general discussion about ESPN recently has involved their increasing rights payouts and decreasing subscriber revenue (leaving them with over $3 billion to make up annually), their parting with big names like Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd, Keith Olbermann and Jason Whitlock, and their September layoffs of up to 350 key personnel, suggesting the Worldwide Leader is facing some hard times, but Skipper said those are “false narratives”:
Despite declining numbers of cable subscribers to ESPN and recent layoffs of approximately 300 employees, Skipper said he “really likes the hand we have,” saying repeatedly the company has been assigned with “false narratives.” “We do not have a narrative problem. We don’t have a narrative of declining usage at ESPN, and we are not retrenching,” Skipper said, citing in part ESPN’s sports industry record digital metrics of more than 94 million people and 10 billion minutes of consumption in September, as well as ESPN’s status as the most-watched U.S. cable channel.
“We are adding viewers on other platforms to supplement our performance on TV. What we have is an internal narrative of continued dramatic success.” While Skipper called the recent layoffs “the most difficult week of my tenure,” he bristled sharply at the idea that the departures of personalities such as Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd and Keith Olbermann represent a talent drain for ESPN. Skipper particularly shot back at the suggestion that Simmons did not receive sufficient internal support and promotion for Grantland. “It is completely inaccurate to say that Bill Simmons and Grantland didn’t get enough support,” he said.
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Joe Buck: ESPN Is Letting Us Set Tone For Monday Night Football
“It wasn’t well, you are at ESPN, you have to figure out how we do it.”
While Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be calling football games on Monday nights for ESPN instead of Sunday afternoons for FOX this year, fans shouldn’t expect the broadcasts to be that much different, if at all, than what they’ve been used to over the last 20 years.
Buck was recently a guest on the Green Light with Chris Long podcast and said that ESPN knows that he and Aikman have to be comfortable in order for Monday Night Football to be a success.
“I know we are in the honeymoon phase. I’m not dumb. That stuff wears off after a while. They are like ‘however you guys have always done a game, that’s the way we want you to do a game whether it’s with regard to meetings vs. conference calls or when you guys show up, how you like the booth set up. However you want it, we are going to do it your way’ and that’s to their credit. It wasn’t well, you are at ESPN, you have to figure out how we do it.”
Buck and Aikman are obviously already very familiar with each other. Buck said that it will be important not to take that for granted or second guess what they already know.
“I think the one thing Troy and I have to avoid is trying to be different than we’ve been. They hired us based on what we’ve done and who we are and how we relate to each other and the way we see a game,” said Buck.
Mike Tirico, Tom Brady, Manningcast Win Sports Emmys
The annual Sports Emmys were handed out on Tuesday night, and some usual names and new names ended up taking home hardware.
Among the usual names were NBC’s Mike Tirico, who won for Outstanding Personality/Studio Host, and soon-to-be Sunday Night Football broadcast colleague Cris Collinsworth, who was named Outstanding Personality/Sports Event Analyst.
But among the new names as Sports Emmy winners include Tom Brady and both Eli and Peyton Manning.
Brady’s Man in the Arena saga won Outstanding Documentary Series, while the Mannings were rewarded for their work on the Monday Night Football Manningcast, which won Outstanding Live Series.
Here’s a rundown of some of the key Sports Emmy winners:
Here is a full list of winners and nominees for the 2022 ceremony.
Joe Buck Says He Won’t Miss World Series
“This is the first time since I was 18-years-old, and I’m 53, that I’m not doing a baseball game.”
Among the bigger chain reactions set off by Joe Buck leaving FOX for ESPN was the sudden vacancy in FOX’s main MLB broadcast booth.
The 2022 World Series will mark the first time since 1995 that Buck will not be on the microphone.
Speaking to Chris Long on his podcast Green Light, Buck hopes to be in a more exotic location watching World Series games this fall.
“I would like to be in Cabo San Lucas with a margarita in my hand and a half-smoked cigar watching Game 7 of the World Series,” Buck said. “Cheering on Joe Davis and John Smoltz, and Ken Rosenthal, and Tom Verducci, and Pete Macheska and Matt Gangl and right on down the line.”
Buck added he’ll take pleasure in turning the broadcast off if it’s Game 7 and there’s an insurmountable lead. But the broadcasting legend said even on a bigger scale, not calling any baseball games at all this season, let alone the World Series, is a bit surreal after covering the sport for so long.
“This is the first time since I was 18-years-old, and I’m 53, that I’m not doing a baseball game,” he said. “And that’s really weird to me, but I walk away really proud of what I and we did.”
He added that he will not miss the opportunity, because he does not feel like he will “leave any unfinished business” in FOX’s MLB booth.
Buck further praised his FOX colleagues and said it was time for a change. He knows Joe Davis will thrive in the opportunity.