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John Skipper: People Will Long For Cable When They Can’t Find Their Games

“You are going to go through a very difficult period of time in the next 5-10 years in which people are not going to be able to find the game they want to watch nearly as easily as they did in the 2000s and 2010s.”

Ricky Keeler

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With the lucrative contracts that have been given out to college football coaches in recent weeks, it has led some to wonder whether those coaches actually deserve the large sums of money that they are receiving. 

To discuss that topic and the future of streaming rights and television, Dan Le Batard was joined by the CEO of Meadowlark Media, John Skipper, and the former president of the Miami Marlins, David Samson on a special episode of the South Beach Sessions podcast.

Both Skipper and Samson believe that coaches do deserve to make that much money. Both men arrived at the conclusion for a different reason.

“I think they are worth the money they are being paid. It may seem outlandish to some people who are making $53,000 a year and don’t understand why you have to pay a football coach 5 or 6 times more than you pay a university president. But, relative success on the football field leads to excitement from your donors, leads to increased admissions, leads to a lot of people showing up in your town for football games. A 12-0 Miami is worth $8 million more than a 7-5 Miami,” said John Skipper. 

“The reason why football coaches to me are making this amount of money is universities are realizing that they are getting fewer and fewer students to pay full freight tuition. They are running at a deficit operationally in a way they never have before. What they are finding is people like you running broadcast empires who are willing to pay rights fees in numbers that are probably irrational, but based on the need for live content. Sports live content in the college area drives so much revenue that if you can get a program that is attractive into a conference that is attractive, it’s going to do way more for your bottom line than anything you can do in any other department. University presidents think coaches are the key master to that money and that’s why they do it,” said Samson. 

Skipper even mentioned that the first broadcast rights deal he negotiated when he was president of ESPN was with the Big Ten. While he was able to accomplish a lucrative rights deal, there is one thing he wished ESPN did not allow to happen in that deal: 

“The first conference deal I worked on was the Big Ten, which came up in 2005. We were competing with FOX. We did a 10-year, $1 billion deal. That was the first billion-dollar deal in college sports for the rights to most of the Big Ten’s games. They kept some games for the Big Ten Network. We should have never let the Big Ten Network happen at ESPN. Wasn’t good for our business that those games leaked out of the system, but Jim Delany had the smart idea to launch a network with FOX and that also was good business, even though it had a rough start.”

Samson mentioned that when he was in charge of the Marlins, he never made a decision with the fans’ thoughts in mind. Well, he now believes that fans are going to have to be heard because they are going to control what actually happens over the next few years.

“What’s happening is there’s a greater demand for people 18-34 to not put up with that. They want no wall in the way of what they want to watch when they want to watch it and where they are when they watch it and on what they watch it on. One of the things team owners have done is they have tried to get back the streaming rights that they gave away to broadcast networks. The reason why networks are willing to pay teams so much for their local rights fees is that’s all you got and you are going to pay your cable company or you are going to pay to have that network available to you to get the game. If you don’t have to pay that network, that network is not going to pay that team and that team isn’t going to pay the players.”

So, what could the future of sports television look like? John Skipper mentioned that people should prepare to be frustrated that it won’t be easy to find their team’s favorite game: 

“You are going to go through a very difficult period of time in the next 5-10 years in which people are not going to be able to find the game they want to watch nearly as easily as they did in the 2000s and 2010s. I will hazard a guess that people will be nostalgic about paid television before too long because it was a great system and very great value because everything you wanted to watch, you paid Spectrum or Comcast and every college football or baseball game was on.

“You can find them all with a single remote and single service. You are going to enter into a bewildering time where people do not know where their game is because 5 of them will be on NBC broadcast and 3 of them will be on ESPN+ and 2 of them will be on Paramount+ and one of them will be on the ACC Network. Every week, you are going to have to figure out where the hell are they playing this week…It’s going to be more expensive, more difficult to find.”

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3.72 Million Tune In To See LeBron James Break Scoring Record

Jordan Bondurant

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Lakers star LeBron James surpassed the NBA’s all-time scoring record on Tuesday night, and TNT benefitted from the milestone ratings wise.

According to Sports Media Watch, Tuesday night’s game averaged 2.98 million viewers. That figure made it TNT’s biggest regular season audience in over two years.

The broadcast peaked at 3.72 million around 11:45 p.m. when James passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the record.

Reporting also indicated that the game was the number one single-network program on TV in key demographics.

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Disney Makes ESPN Independent Division In Corporate Restructuring

Jordan Bondurant

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ESPN

Disney is in the process of reorganizing and restructuring the company, and details have emerged about the company’s plans for ESPN.

Deadline reported on Wednesday that ESPN will be one of three standalone segments comprising Disney. Entertainment and Parks, Experiences & Products are the other two segments.

The reorganization comes amid the exit of former CEO Bob Chapek and the re-entry of CEO Bob Iger. As one of Iger’s first moves back running Disney, he announced a restructuring of Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution.

It was also reported that Jimmy Pitaro will continue as the president of ESPN.

In total, more than 7,000 jobs will be eliminated after the restructuring.

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Roger Goodell: ‘Wouldn’t Surprise Me’ To See Thursday Night Football Move to Flex Scheduling

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon.”

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Thursday Night Football

In 2023, Monday Night Football will join Sunday Night Football in having the ability to flex NFL games into its window. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday Night Football could someday join that elite club.

During his “State of the League” speech Wednesday, Goodell said Thursday Night Football having the ability to flex matchups “wouldn’t at all surprise me”.

“Not today, but it’ll certainly be something that’s on our horizon,” the NFL Commissioner said.

ESPN bargained for the ability to move higher profile games into Monday Night Football during its negotiations with the league for the next television contract that begins this upcoming season.

NBC has long held the ability to shift a select number of games from earlier windows into the Sunday Night Football primetime slot.

Amazon Prime Video just completed the first of an 11-year contract that sees the streaming platform spend nearly $1 billion per year on the Thursday Night Football package.

One of the largest storylines of Amazon’s debut season with the NFL was the near-constant ridicule from play-by-play announcer Al Michaels over the lackluster TNF schedule. Michaels made headlines over several weeks for his candor on the lack of interesting matchups, going as far as to joke that if the schedule didn’t improve he would retire.

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