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John Skipper: There’s No Evidence Broadcasters Are Worth $18 Million Per Year

“I never saw a scintilla of evidence that the people in the booth change the ratings even by a smidgen. The race to hire people is mostly about internal pride.”

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With NFL broadcasting free agency in full swing, there are some who wonder if Troy Aikman getting reportedly around $90 million for five years from ESPN to leave FOX is too much money. Plus, some wonder if it makes a big difference who is calling the big games of the week from a TV ratings standpoint.

On the latest episode of the South Beach Sessions podcast, Dan Le Batard had John Skipper (former president at ESPN and now CEO of Meadowlark Media) and David Samson (former president of the Miami Marlins) on to talk about the big salaries given to broadcasters among other topics.

At the beginning of the podcast, Le Batard asked Skipper if he believed that a color commentator is worth $17-18 million per year regardless of how talented they are. Skipper said there isn’t really much evidence that proves that a commentator is worth that much money necessarily.

“I never saw a scintilla of evidence that the people in the booth change the ratings even by a smidgen,” said Skipper. “The race to hire people is mostly about internal pride. We want to present a good game.

“We want the media to suggest we have a great booth and the people who can do this very well are very rare. May make a little difference around the advertising margins if people are saying your show is great. Can you justify it by looking at a P&L? If I hire Troy Aikman for $18 million rather than Jill Smith for $3 million, will I see $15 million? I think the answer is no.”

“Everybody in the sports industry shows up at the Sports Emmys and they are very proud when it is announced that their version of NASCAR or their version of MLB is the best,” Skipper continued. “It is probably good for your brand. I wasn’t suggesting that it’s a foolish decision, just that it’s not about math.”  

While Skipper was at ESPN and forming the Monday Night Football booth, he wanted to do something different from the conventional way broadcasts are done and he mentioned he regretted that he didn’t push harder for Tony Kornheiser to stay in the broadcast booth longer than he was (from 2006 through 2008).

“It was my feeling and still is that the networks still are doing the radio play-by-play on television,” Skipper said. “If you watch the ‘ManningCast,’ which I have and I find highly entertaining, it feels to me that it makes it clear that you don’t need somebody to tell you everything that you can see. It is interesting to have some commentary on it, have some expertise.

“I thought with Tony, it would be interesting to add some humor on it and that we didn’t need play-by-play. Of course I was in charge so nobody would say no, you can’t do that, but there is such a thing as a pocket veto… It was not particularly embraced. I’ve always regretted that I didn’t insist in a more firm manner that Tony Kornheiser be made an integral part of the booth and that we get away from radio play-by-play.”  

Skipper does find the “ManningCast” very entertaining and he said if we were still in charge at ESPN, he would be trying to make them the main booth, but he understands why nobody does that:

“The ManningCast is entertaining,” he said. “It’s fun and I did not miss at all some human being saying gee, the quarterback turns, hands the ball off, it goes for 3. It will be 2nd and 7. I can see that. Tell me something I can’t see.”

“I would be trying very hard to convince the Manning brothers that they should be doing the main broadcast and that we don’t have to do what everybody’s always done. You can make the other the alternate broadcast if anyone wants conventional play-by-play, they could turn into a different channel.

“Note that nobody does this. Everyone loves the Mannings, it’s a great success. What percentage watch the ‘ManningCast’ instead of the main broadcast? It’s de minimis because of habit. People know the game is on one place, they turn it on… 95% of people still watch it in the conventional way, so I may be completely wrong.” 

Samson did suggest that when Skipper had Kornheiser in the booth, he might have been ahead of his time in changing how a broadcast can be done.

What you were doing was the ‘ManningCast’ before it was the ‘ManningCast,’ except you made it the primary cast,” said Samson. “I’m not sure that ESPN or any network would have the Manning brothers sitting there just riffing during the course of a game without having an alternate booth that was giving you sort of the straight play-by-play.” 

With the way alternate broadcasts of sporting events have continued to grow in recent years, who knows if someone who thinks along the same lines as Skipper might try this one day. 

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Media Reacts To Nick Saban’s Comments On Texas A&M, Jackson State

“Saban’s comments and the ensuing rebuttals will be used to fuel content on sports television and radio through the offseason and likely beyond.”

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Nick Saban had some choice words about recruiting in the NIL era on Wednesday night. The Alabama head coach didn’t just voice frustrations with the process. He called out three schools specifically for using Name, Image and Likeness payments to create an advantage for themselves in recruiting.

He said that Texas A&M, which signed the top-ranked recruiting class in 2022 according to a number of outlets “bought every player on their team.”

He said that Jackson State gave a player $1 million to come to the school. “It was in the paper,” he said. “They bragged about it! Nobody did anything about it.”

It is likely that he was talking about defensive back Travis Hunter, widely regarded as one of the five best players in the class of 2022. It should be noted that Jackson State Coach Deion Sanders has been adamant that Hunter did not receive a dime from the school or anyone else.

The comments created plenty of content on sports radio on Thursday.

Jimbo Fischer, the head coach of Texas A&M took the story to a new level with a press conference of his own in which he cryptically encouraged people to “dig into” Saban’s career history.

The commentary in the sports media came in all kinds of forms. Plenty took to Twitter to express an opinion.

Others used the feud to create comedy.

Finally, others did actual reporting. they made phone calls to get context and further the story.

The coaches may be relatively quiet in public for a while. That doesn’t mean the stories and reactions are going away. Saban’s comments and the ensuing rebuttals will be used to fuel content on sports television and radio through the offseason and likely beyond.

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Bleav Announces Partnership With SiriusXM

“The Bleav podcasts come with some serious star power. Each show features a former player paired with a host to discuss the latest news about their team. In adding Bleav, SiriusXM adds the likes of Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, Adam “Pac Man” Jones and others to its roster.”

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A new partnership will see content from the Bleav Podcast Network come under the SiriusXM umbrella. All 32 of the network’s NFL team-specific podcasts will now be available on the SXM app. The satellite radio company will also have the ability to air Bleav content on its sports channels.

“SiriusXM is a leader in content. We’re very happy to be a part of their programming and continue to amplify the voice of our talent,” Bleav CEO Bron Heussenstamm said in a press release. “SiriusXM listeners will be able to regularly hear from athletes that played for their team, bringing fans insight and access that only a player can.”

The Bleav podcasts come with some serious star power. Each show features a former player paired with a host to discuss the latest news about their team. In adding Bleav, SiriusXM adds the likes of Eric Davis, Lorenzo Neal, Adam “Pac Man” Jones and others to its roster.

The deal will also lead to more content in the future. The companies expect to add to the Bleav content available on the SXM App, including shows focused on other professional and college sports. 

“Bleav’s team-focused programming, hosted by many former stars from the league, give fans a unique and experienced perspective into their favorite players and franchises,” said Steve Cohen, SiriusXM’s SVP of Sports Programming and Podcasts.  “Bleav’s network of shows deliver valuable insight for fans of every NFL team.  They are a great addition to the selection of sports podcasts available on the SXM App and we look forward to adding other shows, focused on other sports, from the Bleav network to SiriusXM in the future.” 

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Dave Portnoy Offers Pat Beverley ‘Blank Check’ To Join Barstool

“Just say how many zeros and guarantee us once a week, you are hired.”

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Minnesota Timberwolves player Pat Beverley turned heads with his comments about Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul after the Suns were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs.

Beverley told Mike Greenberg and Stephen A. Smith on Monday that he thinks Paul is a “traffic cone,” due to his poor defense and that on nights he knows he’s playing Paul he’ll have a nice steak dinner and wine the night before. He said he’s in bed by 8 p.m. and doesn’t want to hear from his mom or girlfriend if he’s playing Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

Pat’s comments got the attention of Barstool Sports president Dave Portnoy. Portnoy said Monday he liked Beverley so much that he would hire him to do a podcast for Barstool.

“If Pat Beverley is a Barstool fan and he’s watching this, he has a blank check. You name your price for a podcast, and we will hire you — no questions asked,” Portnoy said. “Just say how many zeros and guarantee us once a week, you are hired.”

Portnoy made the push to sign Beverley to a podcast deal as the company seeks to scale back the number of podcasts it produces. Barstool CEO Erika Nardini announced the decision to cut shows last week.

No word if Beverley has responded to Portnoy’s offer.

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