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John Skipper Addresses ESPN Departure

Jason Barrett

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Former ESPN President John Skipper has spoken publicly for the first time about his exit from the worldwide leader in sports. In a lengthy conversation with James Andrew Miller of the Hollywood Reporter, Skipper attributes his departure to an extortion plot.

Among the noteworthy comments offered by Skipper were an acknowledgement that he’s gone to therapy and received treatment for his lifelong battle with substance abuse. Skipper said his vice was cocaine, but he never got high at work or allowed it to interfere with his responsibilities of overseeing ESPN. He added that his usage was very infrequent

When pressed by Miller for clarity on whether or not he was forced to resign by Disney CEO Bob Iger, Skipper said he made the call himself after placing Iger in an untenable position. He confirmed that they spoke on Friday afternoon December 15th and his exit from the company was announced just three days later. When asked if he had considered resigning earlier in the week (Wednesday December 13th) when he spoke about the state of the company to a room full of ESPN employees, he said he had not.

Miller then pressed Skipper to explain how such a life altering decision could manifest itself within the span of 48 hours. Skipper opened up and admitted that someone from whom he had purchased cocaine attempted to extort him, leading him to face the reality that his time at ESPN was about to expire.

After being threatened, and put in a position to think about how the exposure could hurt his family and career, Skipper shared the details with his family. He then reached out to Iger, who felt the company had been put in a no-win situation, with the best solution being for Skipper to step down.

Given the circumstances, Skipper said he felt it was the only decision that made sense for all involved. He blamed himself for using poor judgement, and when asked by Miller why he couldn’t have just admitted the issue publicly and taken a leave of absence to get himself clean, Skipper said he didn’t ask for that outcome and had been overwhelmed by the situation. After talking to Iger and coming to terms with how he had put the company in a compromised position, it was made clear what his next steps needed to be.

The conversation then advanced to the rumors of sexual harassment being a factor in his exit from the company. Skipper categorically denied any involvement in such incidents and said that his behavior towards women at ESPN was always respectful. He mentioned that when he announced his resignation, his statement was written to make it clear that his exit was related to substance issue problems, and unrelated to anything surrounding harassment, settled lawsuits or any internal indiscretions.

Prior to announcing his exit, Skipper said he spent the weekend agonizing over what was about to occur. He said he was filled with great regret and tension, didn’t eat, wasn’t sleeping, and had become despondent.

When Monday rolled around, Skipper said he was in New York City when the news was revealed publicly. He said he rarely cries, but did so that day because he understood what he had done to himself, his family, and the company. He spoke about his disappointment of people he cared about and enjoyed working with having to find out about his departure thru a press release, and felt terrible about letting them down.

After spending 27 years with the company, Skipper blamed himself for creating a situation which undoubtedly stained his legacy. He did tell Miller that he would like to get back into the business and do things that matter. He feels he has no choice but to make the best of a bad ending, and intends to do so moving forward. The former ESPN president confirmed that he’s healthy, in a better state of mind, and has taken a few meetings to discuss future possibilities.

To close out the interview, Skipper said new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro is someone he likes very much, and considers a talented and smart executive. He feels Pitaro’s style will be a great fit for ESPN, and added “I hope he does better than the last guy!”

Sports TV News

FOX Doubles Ad Price For Premiere US World Cup Matches

FOX has capitalized by charging $600,000 per 30-second commercial during its coverage of USA/England.

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The 2022 World Cup is underway and the opener received a gigantic ratings increase for FOX Sports. Now, according to a report from Front Office Sports, the network has doubled its ad price for the USA match versus England.

USA/England will air in a lucrative window, at 2:00 PM ET on Black Friday, and FOX has capitalized by charging $600,000 per 30-second commercial during its coverage of the match. That price, according to Front Office Sports reporters Michael McCarthy and Doug Greenberg, is double what the network had asked for from advertisers for other matches.

While the event opener saw a sharp increase, the first match featuring the United States saw a decline from previous World Cup openers for the country. 11.71 million watched the match in the US between FOX Sports and Telemundo. In 2014, 11.1 million watched on ESPN and in 2010 13 million watched the first US match on ABC.

Analysists have predicted FOX Sports could garner nearly $125 million in ad revenue for the duration of the tournament.

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Telemundo’s Miguel Gurwitz Announcing World Cup, NFL Thanksgiving Games For 18 Straight Hours Thursday

With the game expected to end at 2:00 AM local time, that means Gurwitz will be announcing games for over 18 hours on Thursday.

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With the World Cup happening at an unprecedented time, there were bound to be scheduling conflicts. The conflicts for Telemundo’s Miguel Gurwitz, however, might be the real unprecedented nature of the event being played in November.

Gurwitz works on Telemundo’s coverage of the World Cup while calling matches as the secondary play-by-play announcer. Beginning at 11:00 AM in Doha, Gurwitz will work the network’s coverage of the event.

But as the soccer day turns to tonight, Gurwitz will call Telemundo’s broadcast of the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings game from Qatar. With the game expected to end at 2:00 AM local time, that means Gurwitz will be announcing games for over 18 hours on Thursday.

He will also do the feat again on Sunday, as he’ll broadcast World Cup matches for the network during the day and then announce the Packers and Eagles game for Sunday Night Football.

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Sports TV News

Kevin Burkhardt: ‘Honor To Be In People’s Homes’ During Thanksgiving Broadcast

“There were a couple on the calendar that I thought that it might hit me and be very, very cool.”

Ricky Keeler

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On Thanksgiving, Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen will call their first Thanksgiving Day game for FOX when the New York Giants take on the Dallas Cowboys (4:30 PM ET). It’s been a memorable year for Burkhardt and Olsen in their first year as the A broadcast team for FOX that will end in the duo calling the Super Bowl in February.

Burkhardt was a guest on The Season with Peter Schrager podcast this week and talked about the honor of getting the chance to be on the call for a Thanksgiving Day game.

“The whole job is big and we are doing big games every week. There were a couple on the calendar that I thought that it might hit me and be very, very cool. One of them was Dallas-Green Bay, which turned out to be epic a couple of weeks ago.

“The playoffs and the Super Bowl will be great, but Thanksgiving Day. Growing up in a football family, it was kind of eating around both games. Catch the early game, halftime, go throw the football in the street, eat the meal between games, then the Cowboys game comes on, you watch that. Maybe halftime you watch or maybe you throw the football again. Watch the rest of the game, you have dessert after the game. That was the day.

“It is an honor because you are in a lot of people’s homes every week. I feel like you really are in people’s homes…. You are kind of like hugging everybody. I think it’s beyond awesome, I really do.”

Burkhardt mentioned to Schrager that he and Olsen knew they had big shoes to fill after taking over for Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (both now at ESPN) and it felt like walking in to a new job, but the A crew at FOX helped them and he liked that he and Olsen got to do it together.

“It’s been awesome. It really has. When you go into a situation like this, Joe and Troy were there for 2 decades, that’s a long time. People have long-standing relationships. Even though I’ve been at FOX for 9 years and Greg was there last year, we are the new guys essentially.

“You walk in, you don’t know how they are going to react to you, what they are going to think of you, if they think you are any good and all that stuff. From Day 1, it was like welcome to the family, we love you. I know that sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s been awesome. It felt like we’ve just fit right in. I think there’s been some cool symmetry, the fact that Greg and I got to do it together because we have such a bond.

“The fact that we got to jump in together I think has kind of been fun and helped us both because he knows me really well and I know him really well. Then, it was just getting everyone else to know us and vice versa.”

The one thing that Burkhardt did have to adjust to was a different style of show and that each production team has different viewpoint and creativity.

“The crew I’ve been on my whole life with Pete Macheska and Artie Kempner, they do a different show than Z (Richie Zyontz) and Russo (Rich Russo) do it. It’s not good, bad, or indifferent. Everyone has different viewpoints and creativity. I think it was just getting used to each other in terms of that, but it’s felt like I’ve worked with them for 25 years. It’s felt seamless. It’s felt fun.”

Even though Burkhardt is now the lead NFL play-by-play voice for FOX, that doesn’t mean he is going to change how he does a game.

“I’m not going to change my style or who I am. I’m not saying I’m not open to critiques and wanting to get better and to get coached. The basis of what I do and how I do it, I’m not going to change that now because I’m on the A crew. They liked me enough to put me here, so I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. Maybe tweaks here and there, but if I radically changed now, I’d be a moron.” 

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