All That and a Bag of Mail

Soap Bubbles radvanyifx iStockphoto

It’s Friday and we begin Friday’s mailbag with this viral video of a dad in Britain being interviewed about North Korea when his kids decide to open the door and come on in the background. 

As a dad who does a ton of live radio, TV, and Periscope/Facebook shows from his house, this video is just perfect. Here are my six favorite things about the video:

1. The way the little girl walks into the camera.

Just bouncy and full of life.  

And that juxtaposition between the seriousness of the topic and the seriousness of the dad discussing international politics and the little girl’s jauntiness. 

Plus, she’s holding her toothbrush or a marker, I can’t tell which. 

Just gold. 

2. The dad’s attempt to push her away. 

Some of you are saying this is mean — and most of you saying this don’t have kids — but I get the dad’s move here. He’s panicked. This might be one of the first times he has ever gotten to do live TV and everything’s falling apart.

What’s his play here?

He could pick up his little girl and sit her in his lap, but there’s no way he can continue the interview then. He can stand up and lead her out of the room, but then he just bails on the camera and they probably bail on his interview. The only other option I can see him having is saying, “Daddy’s on television right now, can you leave, please?” But everyone who has ever raised a two year old knows that the chances of that happening are nearly zero. 

I actually think attempting to push her out of the shot was the best of his bad options.  

As many of you know my kids have stormed into live Periscope and Facebook shows for over a year now and I just stop whatever I’m talking about and let them climb up into my lap and keep going. But that’s because it’s my show and because it’s pretty hard to get me rattled. Also, I now do the show while the two oldest are at school and my youngest is down for his nap. So I have a few moment’s of peace in the house.  

I’m betting this guy hardly ever does TV and he’s thinking, “Oh my God, everyone is going to think I’m an incompetent fool. My big chance at legitimacy and it’s all ruined!”

3. The baby in the walker coming into the room too.

I mean, come on, the walker!

Too perfect. 

4. The panicked mom or nanny. 

She comes running into the camera shot with both arms spread and slides across the floor like a surprised cartoon character or Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.”

The only thing that could have made this funnier is if she was in a towel and had her hair wrapped up so you could see she just got out of the shower.  

She yanks that first kid right out of the shot — dragging her on the ground — and then tries to corral the kid in the walker too, but of course the kids aren’t going quietly into that good night.

I guarantee you the mom or nanny was trying to get the kids ready for bed and she took a moment to go to the bathroom and that’s when this happened. It takes four seconds for a two year old to walk three miles. This is scientifically impossible, but every parent know it’s true. 

If this woman is the nanny she’s thinking, “I’m so fired,” if it’s the wife she’s going to end up blaming her husband for this somehow.

I don’t know how, but somehow this will be his fault.  

Every husband knows this is true. The dad is going to walk out of this TV interview convinced that his wife is in the wrong here, and before long this entire conversation will morph into it being his fault for not locking the door and her bitching about why he can’t keep his work and his home life separate and that if he knew how long it took to get the kids to sleep he’d understand why he’s to blame for everything that happened.

No one can shift the argument battlefield better than a wife.

My wife could stab me to death with a knife and just as I was crumpling to the floor she’d be standing over me with the knife and the last words I’d hear as a I died would be, “If you’d just taken out the garbage yesterday this would have never happened.” 

5. The way the nanny/wife leans over like this is going to keep her from being visible on the camera.

Then as she’s trying to back out of the room she doesn’t realize the door has closed behind her and she bumps into it.

Perfection. 

6. The nanny/wife crawling to close the door to end the video. 

Nope, we can still see you. 

It’s 41 seconds of pure gold. 

Okay, on to your mailbag questions, which almost all focus on my ESPN article, which hundreds of thousands of you have read. Every day this week the audience for this article has just kept growing. So here it is if you missed it. 

Joshua writes:

“Always enjoy your commentary on ESPN and the business side of sports. I think you’re right that ESPN’s business model is probably doomed unless the cord cutting/a la carte programming trend suddenly reverses. ESPN will likely be caught with extremely expensive contracts based upon the old cable model that won’t be supported by the new model. 

However, sports will still be broadcast, and someone will step in to obtain those rights (likely at a reduced figure if the broadcast rights are no longer supplemented by all cable subscribers). Here’s where I think it gets really interesting (and I don’t think I’ve seen you touch on this). How are the major sports labor unions going to respond? Broadcast rights are the backbone of the players’ salaries.  If the broadcast rights go down, salaries will have to follow.  However, do you think the NFLPA, MLBPA, and NBPA will simply say, “well, we had a nice run cashing checks on the backs of cable subscribers but those days are over.” I don’t. I could easily see us headed for one of the most prolonged periods of labor strife in history.  No players’ association president is going to want to be the one to preside over the first period in history where salaries went backward and will fight tooth and nail to avoid it.  The labor aspect of this should get real interesting in the next 10 years or so.”

It’s a great question that takes the ESPN collapse to the next level — how much of player salaries are artificially inflated by the cable/satellite bundle and the resulting oceans of cash that have flowed to sports leagues? I’ve written about this from the NBA perspective and I believe NBA players are making millions of dollars more a year than they would be if the cable bundle didn’t exist.

Want a stat that blows most people’s minds? Every single cable and satellite customer in the country is paying over $30 a year for the NBA on television. 

Every single one!

And as the number of cable and satellite subscribers declines, every individual customer is paying even more. Before long every single cable and satellite subscriber in the country will be paying $3 a month for the NBA. And that’s even though a tiny percentage of sports fans watch these actual games. It’s just amazing.

If you’re a sports fan the cable bundle’s a great deal, but if you don’t like sports you’re getting screwed.   

The NFL will be the first test of ESPN’s collapsing business model and we’re just a couple of years away from finding out the answer to your question. Because most NFL TV deals expire at the end of the 2021 season. I suspect that Fox, NBC, & CBS will all try and renew their NFL packages for a modest increase. That means player contracts would continue to increase, but not an awful lot more than the rate of inflation. 

But I don’t see any way that ESPN can afford to pay $2 billion or more for Monday Night Football and the studio shows surrounding the NFL.The complicating factor — I also don’t see any way that ESPN can continue to charge $7 a month or more for its programming without the NFL. So what will Disney, ESPN’s parent, do? Will Disney invest more billions in the NFL rights to try and keep ESPN’s business model from collapsing even faster or will Disney let the NFL walk and slowly milk whatever dollars it can out of ESPN as the network slowly recedes to irrelevance? Or could Disney try and spin off ESPN as its own business and pocket billions in cash to invest in faster growing businesses?

It’s a fascinating question. 

My bet is that Disney will end up putting Monday Night Football back on ABC and try to convince people to switch over to ESPN as soon as the game ends. But ABC is “free” television supported by advertising. Taking away Monday Night Football from ESPN kills the audience there — this is the most viewed program every week in the fall on ESPN by far — and may well violate the existing carriage agreements with Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network and the like.

Over the next ten years or so, ESPN has a no growth business. So how does Disney handle this reality? The company is fortunate it was smart enough to buy Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars because otherwise ESPN’s collapse would be tanking the company.  

Here are the other two big questions:

1. Will Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, or Netflix — the five horsemen of the Internet economy — bid big money for the NFL or any other sports league?

I think the answer is no because TV doesn’t make much money off the NFL now so why would one of these five companies, all of which can make big profits, be willing to lose money on the NFL to have the bragging rights of carrying league games? 

If any of these companies get involved then player contracts could continue to climb because all five of these companies can afford to pay billions for the games. 

2. Will sports leagues get in bed with gambling? 

There are tens of billions of dollars for the sports leagues to make from legalized gambling.

I suspect that if TV money starts to dry up that the leagues will go aggressively after the gambling market. In fact, you’re already seeing it happen. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said he thinks sports gambling should be legal and the NHL and the NFL may well have franchises in Las Vegas soon. If you have a team playing in a city where sports gambling is legal, how can you oppose it nationwide?

Finally, legalizing sports gambling would increase TV ratings because more people would have an incentive to keep watching the games, even if the scores aren’t that close when it comes to winning and losing. 

Phillip writes:

“I agree with your analysis of ESPN’s collapse almost 100%, and enjoy all of these articles about its foreseeable demise. My only disagreements with your analysis is your “benefit of the doubt” that you give ESPN that their $7.00/subscriber fee will increase over time. I know you are being generous to them, but the laws of economics says that if you raise prices while demand declines, you will hasten that decline. The United States Post office has been doing this for years with the price of stamps. Technology has caused a decrease in demand and their answer is more advertising and increased prices. ESPN faces the same dilemma, but they are a for profit corporation and should know better than to raise prices. I don’t think they will, but they will continue to do what the post office won’t do, and that is cut costs. We will see what happens.

Also, assuming you are right, and ESPN begins to lose money in 2021, what are the options for Disney before this happens? They are not going to wait around for this to happen. If you can see what is happening, then the suits at Disney are obviously on top of these trends. While these cuts have occurred and more are coming, they know they can’t cut their way out of this without damaging their brand. It may not be a company that can be salvaged in its current form. While they want to argue otherwise, their demise is being hastened by their leftward lurch. You and their customers have tried to warn them about this, but they are not listening. Maybe you are right and they are dumb enough to piss off their customers by making everything political and raising prices. Maybe they are just a for-profit Post Office.

Whatever happens, it should be interesting. Thanks for writing about this subject. It’s interesting to watch a brand implode before our very eyes, knowing it’s going to happen.”

Your analogy is a good one — most brands losing customers aren’t able to raise prices, but the cable bundle has more in common with health care than it does with traditional retail businesses. 

Let me explain.

I’ve had three kids. In theory I should have shopped around for the hospital that would offer me the best care for the best price when it came to delivering my kids. Just like I would shop around for a hotel or a car or a house, I should have shopped around for a planned health care expense. Again, once my wife got pregnant it was evident that we were having a baby, this wasn’t a car accident or a sudden illness or injury.

Every person reading this right now knows what their house or car cost them because it was a planned purchase. And everyone doesn’t have the same kind of car or the same kind of house. You buy what you can afford or what you’re willing to spend. All situations are different. 

Yet when my wife went to tour the maternity wards of hospitals do you know what they sold us on? Private rooms, wifi, their new bamboo floors, the quality of their doctors, the safety of the baby after he or she was born, not one person ever mentioned price on these maternity ward tours. So my wife picked the hospital she felt the most comfortable with and we’ve had all three of our kids there.

But I have no idea if our hospital was a better or worse deal than the other hpsitals we considered. 

Those babies were not cheap — I looked at the itemized bills — and each of my kids cost over ten thousand dollars. Next time you get a hospital bill actually look at the damn thing. It’s incredible how every little thing is coded in there. You get billed for so many things you never even realized cost anything. 

In theory we should have shopped around and found the hospital and the maternity service that fit our budget and hospitals should have to compete with each other for our business just like car companies and real estate agents do. That would drive down cost and increase efficiency. That’s the entire point of capitalism. But that’s not what happens with health care.

Why?

Because your health care costs are buried in insurance bills. Even wilder, many people don’t pay for their health insurance because their employer covers the cost. And then that health care isn’t taxed as income. What sense does that make? Wouldn’t you think it was strange if your employer paid your car insurance?

As a small business owner I’ve had to buy my family’s own insurance for the past six years, it’s complicated as hell. All I really want is catastrophic coverage — in the event me or my family has a multi-million dollar bill, I want that covered —  but I’m fine with an insanely high deductible because I make good money. What that means is that I pay a bunch of money for insurance and then end up paying out of pocket for the vast majority of our family’s health care costs.

So what real benefit am I getting here? 

I’m using health care as an example because that’s how the cable bill is for most people. And the cable bill channel costs are even more hidden than the health care costs. Your cable bill isn’t itemized by channel so customers don’t flip through it and start asking why they are paying for hundreds of channels they don’t watch.

The average American household watches 16 or 17 channels a month yet has 200 channels. Why are you paying for the other 183 channels? Because most people don’t take the time to know what the channels cost.

So ESPN, unlike the local dairy selling milk, can keep raising prices every year without customers realizing it.

Compare that with Netflix, a company in a very similar business to ESPN. Every time Netflix raises prices there are hundreds of articles written about the impact of Netflix’s price increase. Yet ESPN has been raising prices every year since 1979 and how many articles have you seen written about it? Hardly any. That’s because ESPN’s cost is buried in your cable or satellite bill and consumers don’t realize how much they’re paying for the channel.     

It’s a genius business model. Where else can a company constantly raise prices without the consumer knowing they’re paying price increases and raise those prices on tens of millions of people who will never watch use the product, aka watch the channel at all? If Netflix announced it was raising prices 5% a year for the next decade and that every single person who has cable and satellite now would have to pay that there would be a consumer revolt, yet ESPN has been doing it for nearly forty years and barely a whisper of criticism has ever emerged.

It’s amazing, really.

What a business.  

Michael writes:

“Clay,

I listened to your talk at UT. Good stuff.

Seeing as most universities are havens for PC culture, I’m just curious if the University (or whoever hired you) had any feedback on your speech? I could see bromanis getting worked up about you calling people pussies or, for example, having the audacity to suggest Caitlyn Jenner is not a hero. Obviously the crowd loved it, but school admins getting are probably not used to speakers dropping “pussy” and “fuck” throughout an address to students.”

I asked about complaints and the people at Tennessee said they got one complaint. That surprised me, I thought there would be more. I haven’t heard anything about complaints since my talk, just praise from the people who came in person or watched on Periscope or Facebook. Here it is again if you missed it. 

I was talking earlier this week with someone who works in media and he was saying that he was surprised I could say and write what I say and write about so many controversial subjects without a huge backlash. That is, I don’t get that many people losing their minds over what I say or write about sports or politics or race or any other subject. I think the reason is because I’ve taken so much criticism for the past decade or so that I’ve finally emerged on the other side and people just accept me for who I am. That and it’s clear that complaints will have no impact on what I say or write.  

It’s similar to Howard Stern, albeit on a much smaller scale. (At least for the moment, we’re getting pretty damn big at Outkick). 

When was the last time you heard people lose their minds over something Howard Stern said or did? It has been decades, right? Now you can say his show is not what it used to be and he’s gotten more conservative, but the other day I flipped it on and they were having a “Mr. Black Penis” contest live on air. They were picking their favorite black penis and they had a bunch of naked black dudes walking around in the studio competing for the title. And Stern’s archives still play every day and there is some crazy ass shit on those archives.  

The show’s absolutely hysterical, but in this day and age when everyone is offended by everything how in the world can Stern get away with this? I think it’s all about expectations. Stern has set the expectation that he can say or do anything. And that protection doesn’t just extend to Stern, it also covers all of his guests too. People are so honest in their interviews with Stern that I’ll listen and expect that someone’s answer will become a huge story and then nothing comes from it. 

Why?

Because of the listener expectation. Stern has created an environment where anything is possible and total honesty is expected. As a result there is so much honesty in any given show that you can’t focus on one sentence or segment and protest it.   

I think we’ve got that at Outkick –clearly on a much smaller scale — too. 

People expect me to do what I do — be as smart, funny, original and authentic as I possibly can be. So when I say or write something that’s “controversial” even people who hate me realize they can’t silence me anymore. I’m not changing or apologizing. So my critics have given up and moved on to other targets.

What’s more, they also realize that we have a huge audience and that you guys have my back on social media. So if someone steps to me and tries to tear me down, they get crushed.

The result is a beautiful thing — total creative freedom to say and write exactly what I think.

A huge part of this creative freedom is that I’ve grown my audience from zero to millions and it has happened from the ground up as opposed to from the top down. That is, I didn’t suddenly get put on television and become famous because ESPN or Fox or CBS or NBC brought me to the masses. If they had done that, they would have controlled my career and what I could say or write. 

Instead, I started off writing online for an audience of zero. And I built my audience every single day by going out and producing original content which led to radio and TV. For years I made no money and was just growing my audience. Much like Howard Stern built his audience by going on radio in small markets and moving along to bigger and bigger markets as his audience grew. I can’t tell you the number of times people have told me, “You can’t say that! You can’t write that!” Hell, my own wife still does it. She won’t even listen to the show live because she’s worried about what I might say.

Most people in media live in fear of the reaction to what they say or write. I’m fearless and I welcome the criticism since it just leads to more readers, viewers and listeners.  

In fact, what I’ve found again and again is that I get rewarded every time I’m smart, original, funny and authentic. The more honest I am, the bigger our audience gets. 

I suspect that’s because writing and radio both produce tremendous loyalty from readers and listeners. You guys feel connected to me because there’s something intimate about the relationship, I’m telling you honest things about my life and we experience them together. And many of you like Outkick because you have the same thoughts or feelings as me but you know that you can’t say them and keep your jobs.

So I’m saying what most people think even if they never say aloud. 

And I’m having the time of my life. 

So thanks to all of you. 

Now go have a good weekend and don’t get hit by a train. 

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.