Just a few months ago, it appeared FOX was set to have serious competition for Skip Bayless, who will soon be looking for a new contract. But with sports media companies ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, it doesn’t bode well for Bayless’ ability to land a lucrative deal.
“This is the worst timing ever for Skip,” an unnamed media executive told Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports.
Bayless is set to see his 4-year $25million deal with FOX expire in September and he was hoping for a pay increase, but now he might struggle to maintain his annual salary of nearly $6 million. In recent months, ESPN and DAZN were both labeled as suitors for Bayless, but like most sports media companies, they too have felt the negative impacts of COVID-19.
DAZN, led by Bayless’ former FS1 and ESPN boss Jamie Horowitz, furloughed its entire live event staff in April, while ESPN personnel agreed to pay cuts between 15-30%. Similarly, most FOX Sports on-air talent took a temporary 15% pay reduction.
In November, ESPN was reported to be interested in reuniting Stephen A. Smith and his ex-First Take partner, Skip Bayless. Smith and Bayless worked together on First Take from 2012 – 2016, before Skip made the move to FOX. Last year, ESPN made Smith their highest paid employee with an annual salary of nearly $8 million, which is likely similar to the contract Bayless expected to seek.
Although FS1’s Undisputed is significantly out-rated by ESPN’s First Take, approximately 150,000 viewers to 414,000, FOX still sees value in debate shows, even with live sports on hold. Without ESPN and DAZN able to bid, Bayless loses two of his strongest bargaining chips. Still, it would seem unlikely for FOX to expect Skip to take a pay cut in his next contract.
Poll Data Shows Tepid Response To Tom Brady Joining FOX
“A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.”
FOX Sports reportedly signed Tom Brady to a 10-year deal worth $375 million to make the seven-time Super Bowl champion the new lead analyst for its top NFL broadcast once his playing career is over.
A recent Harris Poll conducted on behalf of Front Office Sports showed that 1 in 3 Americans are more likely to watch a game with Brady on the microphone.
The poll said 2 in 5 NFL fans have a better opinion of FOX Sports following the deal, with 41% of NFL fans being at least somewhat more likely to watch a game with Brady as an analyst.
Data shows one-third of NFL fans think the deal Brady reportedly agreed to is worth about the same as its reported value.
That reaction could probably be described as “tepid”. That may be exactly what FOX expects and maybe all it wants.
Last week, Domonique Foxworth of ESPN suggested that the paycheck is less about what the network thinks Tom Brady means to viewers and more about showing the NFL that the network values its product.
FOX Not Interested In Joining Streaming Sports Wars
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take?”
The CEO of FOX doesn’t plan on forking over billions of dollars to be people’s last choice for paid streaming services.
Lachlan Murdoch said at a time when more than 80% of American homes already have some kind of paid streaming service, it’s not worthwhile to jump on that train.
Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ typically account for the average streaming presence in a household.
“All this fight that’s going on, sort of gladiatorial kind of bloodshed, is really for that last position, right, in the three to four services that people will take,” Murdoch said at a tech conference earlier this year. “And so the billions of dollars that’s being spent by multiple aspirants is all for that last position. And so we are extraordinarily — I want to say that — we’re happy to be sort of sitting on the sidelines.”
Murdoch told Benjamin Swinburne that when it comes to the NFL, FOX’s media rights are the same as CBS, NBC and ESPN. The main focus for the company remains on keeping games on TV.
“We don’t believe it helps us to put those rights under a streaming service or free on over-the-air. We think it’s very important that those rights remain exclusive to the broadcast environment,” Murdoch said.
FOX does stream games through its app, but it is only the games it is also carrying on its broadcast network or FS1.
NBA Draft To Get Simulcast From ESPN & ABC
“This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.”
ESPN is set for the 2022 NBA Draft coming up on June 23 at 8 p.m. from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The network announced Wednesday the crews that will handle coverage on both ESPN and ABC.
ABC will broadcast the first round in primetime. Kevin Negandhi will host and will be joined by Stephen A. Smith, Chiney Ogwumike and Jalen Rose. Monica McNutt will be reporting and interviewing draftees.
This follows the simulcast model ESPN and ABC have employed for several years with the NFL Draft.
Malika Andrews will host both rounds for ESPN. Jay Bilas, Kendrick Perkins and Adrian Wojnarowski will share the set. Analysts Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz will contribute.
“We’re thrilled that Malika Andrews will host this year’s ESPN presentation as she brings her well-documented, widespread skillset to our main set,” said David Roberts, head of NBA and Studio Production for ESPN. “The event will showcase the scope and depth of our NBA and college basketball talent roster with accomplished journalists and high-profile personalities across ESPN, ABC and ESPN Radio.”
ESPN will air a pre-draft red carpet show hosted by Cassidy Hubbarth from 5-6 p.m. Perkins and Richard Jefferson will also make appearances.