All That and a Bag of Mail

Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) in action during the game against the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports Kevin Jairaj

It’s Friday and the morning has already started off with more indications that my column saying Bob Iger had moved ESPN left wing to aid his potential run for the presidency was completely right.

This morning during our Outkick Show — while we had the guy behind the Root Analytics research that showed ESPN was losing Republican voters — this news dropped:

Disney CEO Bob Iger is being pelted with entreaties to run for president in 2020, and is clearly intrigued by the idea, according to industry sources. Iger has discussed the feasibility with friends but has made no formal moves.

“He’s hearing quite a bit of: You should run — you’d be a great president,” said one Hollywood insider. “He’s hearing that quite a bit from prominent fundraisers and Democratic insiders.”

A ringleader? Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former Disney Studios chairman, is said to be among those encouraging a run. The Hollywood Reporter said in March that “Iger has told friends he is considering their nudges.” The rumor in Hollywood is that Katzenberg was a key leak of the story.

How much can one man be right?

Between gambling, the Mizzou fake protests, the Peyton Manning mooning coverage, the Ryan Lochte getting robbed story, and ESPN collapsing I’m on an incredible hit streak right now on big stories that we’ve covered here.

Speaking of which, news dropped yesterday on Outkick version 3.0 that I’d encourage you guys to read. Good changes are coming to the site very soon.

Okay, on to the mailbag. 

Ben writes:

“Jay Cutler is going to call NFL games now? This seems crazy to me based on how much of a dick he was during his career. Will he smoke in the broadcast booth too?”

Cutler hated the media when he played, but so did Randy Moss and Alex Rodriguez and both have been hired by Fox and been really good on TV. It sounds like they think Cutler might be too. 

By the way, how about Cutler having to retire because no one would sign him. Now think how much attention Cutler’s free agency got compared to Colin Kaepernick’s.

Hell, I’ll just come out and say it, I can’t believe all the racism I’m seeing. White guy has a good career at quarterback, starts for a decade, only 34 years old, and no one will sign him?

Racism is the only explanation when a quarterback isn’t being signed, right? At least that’s what MSESPN taught me. 

Andrew writes:

“My kids went to a small private catholic high school in northern Delaware (about 125 in the graduating class). For the 5th year in a row, at least one kid has chosen to attend Alabama, costing about $15,000 a year more for an out of state student than they would pay at the University of Delaware (which has comparable entrance requirements). I never remember anyone choosing Alabama as their college pre-Nick Saban. When I asked the college counselor about this, he said students are clearly drawn to the big-time football atmosphere of Alabama, vs. what they would get at 1-AA Delaware.

I went and looked at the change in out of state student percentages at Alabama since Saban won his first national title. Using rough numbers, out of state students in Alabama’s freshman class have increased from 35% to 65% in the past 9 years.

Let’s be extremely conservative and give Saban credit for 10% of that 30% increase. In a freshman class of 7,500 kids, that is an additional 750 kids paying $16,500 more a year in tuition (the difference between in state and out of state tuition charges at Alabama). Spread that over 4 classes, and that is $49,500,000 every year in extra tuition revenue to Alabama.

Nick Saban at $11,000,000 a year in salary is the bargain of the century.”

Great email and I agree with all of it. 

The University of Alabama is in the process of becoming an outstanding academic institution. They are doing what we all hope schools will do — use athletic success to lead to academic success. Athletics are the front porch of every university and there’s no doubt that in addition to winning four national titles at Bama Nick Saban has also turned the school into a national destination. If anything, I think this aspect of the Alabama story — which is far more lasting than any football success — is actually going to be Saban’s greatest legacy to the university. 

Long after Saban is gone Alabama, whether the football team is up or down with his successors, Alabama is going to be a really good academic institution.

Would anyone have believed in the doldrums of the Mike Shula era that within 10 years of Saban’s hiring that the Crimson Tide would have four national titles and, perhaps even more surprisingly, that Bama would have become one of the hottest schools in the country?

Bama grads are becoming like Florida grads back in the day, every one of them I meet I actually like. It’s infuriating for that to be the case when your team can’t beat theirs. They beat your ass and you like them. It’s just like being a kid all over again.   

Now if Bama could only do something about their annoying ass fanbase, the 85%, that could never get into the school.  

Matt writes:

“I am not sure if I love you or hate you, but I listen to the radio show every day. I would absolutely ask to take a picture if I saw you in the streets though. I agree that the current model for ESPN is dead, but I have to ask, isn’t what Disney/ESPN is doing now the exact thing you would do if you were them? They bought 33%, with an option to become majority owner of BAMTech, the MLB spin-off that produces all of the OTT networks. You talk about how great the WWE Network is…well it is is BAMTech that creates the actual network.

In this scenario can’t you see Disney/ESPN becoming the producer of ALL of the sports league’s OTT networks? You will be seeing NFL Sunday Ticket OTT presented by ESPN with ESPN producing and creating the analysis and talking head shows like they do now. Same with the NHL, MLB, and NBA networks, all running on BAMTech. ESPN the network will be dead, but ESPN’s shows will live on the OTT channels. It is definitely something to think about and something that if I was a Fox Sports exec I would be worried about.”

First, ESPN’s existing deals with cable and satellite companies don’t allow them to go over-the-top. So I don’t think these days are coming anytime soon. Second, every month the ease of going direct to consumer becomes more pronounced and distribution becomes less of an issue. So I’m not sure that this technology is that valuable. Third, and perhaps most importantly, where does the money come from under this model?

Let’s break down number three. If you sell subscriptions to fans, what share would the network/distributor get of the money? 20% of the overall sales? Maybe 25% at the top end? But, remember, there will be dozens of companies competing for this business and probably undercutting the share they are willing to take if leagues go direct to consumers. Taking an overall share of the revenue in exchange for production’s not an awful business model, but it’s nowhere near as good as ESPN’s business model now where it gets nearly $8 a month from 87 million people. Plus, the advertising dollars on top of that.

I don’t believe the market for over the top sports is that large. 

The WWE Network is a great example. Right now the WWE network has roughly 1.6 million global subscribers paying around $100 a year. (I am one of these subscribers and I’m also a WWE shareholder). This means the WWE brings in around $160 million a year in total revenue. And the WWE’s events outrate most sports games on cable. That is, the Monday and Tuesday WWE shows outrate just about all NBA, MLB and college football games on ESPN right now. And unlike any over the top network the WWE Network includes all the top “premium” wrestling events — Wrestlemania, SummerSlam, the Royal Rumble and so forth. It’s not as if the Super Bowl or the NFL playoffs are suddenly only going to be available via streaming for NFL fans.  

So how many people would be willing to pay for the NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL over the top if the biggest games are still going to be on “free” TV?

Well, we have one interesting NFL test case. Only about two million people a year pay for NFL Sunday Ticket on DirecTV. And that’s the NFL’s best possible value, every out of market NFL game in your own home. Now DirecTV has about 20 million subscribers so it isn’t available to everyone, but only 10% of DirecTV’s subscribers will pay for NFL Sunday Ticket. Let’s assume that package were available to everyone in the country, how many people buy it? Maybe seven or eight million people total? And that might be high. The average consumer pays $250 for Sunday Ticket. So that’s a total of $2 billion to the NFL. Let’s say ESPN’s network takes 20% of that to produce and distribute the games. That’s $400 million, out of which they have to pull all of their production costs and the like. What’s the actual profit? A tiny fraction of what ESPN makes off its business now.

Put simply, I just don’t see how over the top sports is going to work for ESPN anywhere close to the business it has now. I think the ESPN business is dying and it will take several years for most to pronounce what I’m already telling you, that it’s dead.  

Grant writes:

“I’m not sure I understand the comparisons between Dak Prescott and Josh Dobbs? If you look at the stats for their Jr. & Sr. years, it’s really no comparison. Dak is clearly the better passer.

Dak’s Stats:

Jr year – 3,449 yards, 61.6%, 27 TDs, 11ints
Sr year – 3,793 yards, 66.2%, 29 TDs, 5 ints

Dobbs’s Stats:

Jr year – 2,291 yards, 59.6%, 15 TDs, 5 ints
Sr year – 2,946 yards, 63%, 27 TDs, 12 ints

Not to mention, Dak lead his team to a No.1 ranking for 5 weeks in 2014. And if you don’t think that’s a big deal, how has MSU done before and after Dak left?”

It’s because the NFL is a copycat league and both Dak and Dobbs played in the SEC, are mobile quarterbacks, and started for multiple years. Everything is about projections in the NFL and everyone is looking for the next Dak, an overlooked diamond in the rough who will perform better than expected. This year that guy is Dobbs.

I think, interestingly, Dak was hurt by Tim Tebow’s failure in the NFL. If Tebow had been a stud NFL quarterback then Dak would have been a first round draftee. But NFL scouts looked at Dak and said, “This guy is like Tebow, a big, physical quarterback who could hurt you with the run or the pass, except with worse stats, and we all know how Tebow turned out.”

Tebow hurt Dak because people believed that just like Tebow he couldn’t throw well enough in the NFL. 

Now, after Dak’s first year success, NFL scouts are looking at the available quarterbacks this year and they see Josh Dobbs and they say, “Hey, this guy is like Dak, he’s a runner and a passer and he started multiple years in the SEC and had some success on the field. Maybe we aren’t valuing him correctly.”

I watched Josh Dobbs every game he played at Tennessee. I have seen every throw in his college career. And there is no way I would draft Josh Dobbs to be an NFL quarterback. I just think he misses way too many easy throws. In the NFL the difference between an okay and a good quarterback is a simple question, “How good are you on third and six yards or more?” That is, when you have to pass and everyone knows you are going to pass, can you make that throw for a first down to extend a drive?

I saw Dobbs fail way too many times in this exact same situation at Tennessee to believe that he will be a successful NFL quarterback. I hope I’m wrong because I don’t root for any SEC quarterback to fail in the NFL, particularly not one from Tennessee, but I just don’t see him becoming a good quarterback in the NFL.

In fact, if Dak hadn’t had an amazing rookie season I think it’s likely that Dobbs isn’t even drafted this year.   

Barry writes:

“I enjoyed listening to your thoughts on health care yesterday on Outkick the Show. I find it interesting to contrast the overall cost of health care with the cost of health care that is typically not covered by health insurance. Lasik, elective cosmetic surgery and so forth are forced to compete in a free market. What’s the result? Quality goes up, price goes down. But Americans think of health care as something that is “free” – much like a buffet. Once you’ve agreed to pay for the buffet, there’s not much of an incentive to make good decisions because the marginal cost is zero.

Americans seem to demand that the government subsidize their health care. As long as that happens, it’s difficult to imagine price competition. I don’t know what the best answer is, but it seems like if everyone were given a fixed amount to spend on health care each year, and could do what they want to with that money it would be more efficient. You could choose the eye doctor or dentist or pediatrician that is most convenient with the best value just like you do with dry cleaning, restaurants, and car repairs. If every citizen received $500 (as a subsidy or a tax credit or through another mechanism) they would be incentivized to spend it wisely. For amounts beyond that, they’d need to pay for it out of their own pocket. And for the unfortunate few who have extreme needs, there could be a catastrophic pool that covers that. For instance, if your costs went over $5,000 (or whatever amount you need it to be) the government would pick up most/all of that amount. There would be an incentive to shop around for the best value that way.”

For those of you who missed yesterday’s Outkick the Show, I was talking about my experience with health care. 

In particular, I focused on the experience we had when we had our three kids. My wife toured all the Nashville area hospitals to decide where to have her baby. On the tour they made a big deal of the bamboo flooring and the WIFI and the iPod docks for your personal play list and the safety that the hospital had set up to ensure that your baby wasn’t kidnapped. 

You know what was never mentioned?

Price. 

Isn’t it crazy that in a capitalistic society where every other industry competes on price to gain consumers that not one of these hospitals mentioned cost to us? Can you imagine if we shopped for cars or houses like this? Everyone would pick the most expensive option even if they had no ability to afford it at all.

That’s why our health care system is broken, there’s no transparency on price. We trust competitive markets to make our society dynamic and thriving in every other industry and then we completely fall apart when it comes to health care: health care is the only thing I consume in this country that I have no idea what it costs.

Now if we got incredible results because of this I might feel like it was still a good bargain. But we don’t. In fact, despite the insane costs to everyone in this country for health care, we get no better results. Per capita we spend more on health care than any country in the world, yet we rank 31st in life expectancy! 31st!

People in Chile and Slovenia live longer than us.

Even crazier? People in Cuba live almost the same length of time as us and they barely have a functional economy there.

Our health care system is just broken.  

Also, how come no one makes a big deal out of the fact that women outlive men? I hear people talk about the fake, nonexistent in real life wage gap all the time, but how come men aren’t out marching over the fact that women live nearly FIVE YEARS LONGER THAN US?

Five years is a long ass time.

I’m sick of all this discrimination against men.  

Will writes:

“Yesterday’s Hottest Star Wars list could have gotten me arrested. I was waiting in the drive through line at McDonald’s listening to your show and when it came time for me to pay, I pull up to the window and you proceed to talk about 6 year old Clay getting a hard penis and not even knowing if he was gay or not. Now I know you said all that in a no homo, perv free way but the McDonald’s attendant heard it quit differently I’m sure. As I’m about to throw my phone out the window because the volume isn’t going down fast enough, I look back towards the attendant and he looks in shock and as if he is about to projectile vomit at me listening to a man talk about 6 year olds getting boners.

Listen to that segment and imagine yourself at the drive through. You can’t explain what you’re listening to. Nothing works to explain away the shame. I really expected the cops to show up behind me and arrest me in front of my house.”

Yesterday in honor of May the fourth I confessed that Princess Leia in her slave bikini sitting on Jabba the Hutt’s lap gave me my first ever erection caused by a noticable stimulus. I completely remember sitting in the movie theater and my penis moving when she was in that outfit. And I also remember noticing that my penis was moving because of the girl on the movie screen. 

Hate to brag, but a woman giving me an erection at the age of five probably means I’m the most heterosexual man in the history of America. 

Anyway, I then ranked the seven hottest people in the history of Star Wars:

1. Princess Leia

2. Han Solo

3. Queen Amidala

4. Lando Calrissian

5. Rey

6. Anakin before he got burned and turned into Darth Vader

7. Jyn from Rogue One

Any other of your Star Wars hotness rankings are completely wrong.  

Caleb writes:

“Do you plan to change your behavior to ensure growth of Outkick? Clearly your fans (myself included) appreciate your brash approach to news stories and want to hear your take, but at what point does your uncensored approach cost you growth? As a business leader, I know this has to be on your radar. Are you branding your personality or are you willing to change it and adjust to reach a broader audience? How do you manage the risk of media outlets countering your behavior with their PC bs, and it costing you and your listeners, the ability to easily access your content? Help me understand where you’re at with this, and where Outkick and its listeners are headed in the future. Any plans to author a new book or host an in-person tour?”

This is why owning Outkick matters. Unlike the vast majority of people in the media I have complete creative control over what I say and write. I believe this is a huge competitive advantage. While every other big media company is out there worried about offending people I can just say, “Fuck it, here’s what I think.”

And if people get upset, so what? There’s literally nothing people who disagree with me can do to me. I can never get fired from Outkick and no one can stop me from being able to reach my audience. In fact, our audience is growing rapidly for this exact reason — because so many people crave authenticity in today’s market. 

In a modern market like ours where distribution costs are rapidly moving towards zero, the power of big networks like ESPN are diminishing every single day. It used to be that you needed a network to get your opinion out there, now you don’t. I believe the content creator with an audience, and that’s me, will have all the power in the years ahead. 

That’s also why we are launching Outkick premium, a member’s only portion of the website. If Outkick VIP works — and works well — then we wouldn’t even have to worry about selling advertising. We’d just monetize you guys directly. Now I have no idea how many of you will sign up for Outkick VIP — after all, you’re talking to a guy who thought selling pants was genius — but if only 5% of our regular audience does it, that’s a game changer. 

If you think about it from a business perspective, right now advertisers are the middle men, they pay me to reach you. I don’t ever think content creators will leave advertising behind — we love our advertising partners here because they like Outkick too — but what are Netflix, HBO, and Amazon doing? They’re making content and taking it directly to consumers for a set cost without any advertising money involved.

And their businesses are extraordinary.

So to answer your question, no, I don’t plan on changing. And I definitely plan on a new book and an in-person tour soon.   

Ray writes:

“I started listening to your show on my morning drive, and to be honest I had never heard of you before. This was about 6-7 months ago I began listening. I just want to say it is so refreshing to hear someone that doesn’t abide by the politically correct opinion that most radio hosts spout out daily.

My question is how much, if any, pressure do you receive from management to conform to the public opinion?

It seems to me that Fox does a much better job of allowing their hosts to have their own personalities which is why I completely switched over and do not listen to espn at all anymore.

Thank you for your show, and thank you for having the balls to say what most don’t for fear of losing their job!”

My bosses at Fox Sports radio — Don Martin and Scott Shapiro — are extraordinary to work with. They give me the freedom to do what I do. I love working with them and they have never told me what subjects to talk about or what my opinions should be or that what I said on the air was unacceptable. They’re great.  

If you’re not listening to the morning radio show from 6-9 am et, you should be. Hate to brag, but we’re on in all fifty states and on SiriusXM channel 83.   

William writes:

“Given the recent jolt in popularity, what’s your take on the growth of the Predators in the city of Nashville? Obviously, the South lacks passion and popularity for hockey which makes it difficult for some teams to survive (for ex: Atlanta Thrashers).

However, the last two Predator home games have resulted in 2 of the 3 highest TV ratings in Predator history for the Nashville area. Multiple analysts and hockey enthusiasts have labeled Bridgestone Arena one of loudest arenas in the NHL, with one article comparing it to a Cameron Indoor type atmosphere. An NBC announcer on Sunday said that attending a Predators playoff game should go on everyone’s bucket list, Barry Melrose said a Stanley Cup Final in Nashville would be one of the greatest events to happen for the NHL, etc.

After almost losing the team in 2007/2008, how has Nashville developed the franchise to what it is today and will they be able to sustain this prosperity?”

I think the Preds marketing team has done a phenomenal job, but even those playoff TV ratings are 1/3rd what an average regular season Titans game does in the market. When Marcus Mariota takes the Titans to the playoffs this year, that Titans playoff game will do a 45 or 50 share in the city, which would be about five times what a top Preds playoff game gets. 

What I think it also speaks to is what a phenomenal market Nashville is for sports. The Preds were lucky to get here when they did. If Nashville had gotten the Grizzlies instead of Memphis, the NBA team would be much more successful here than it is there. The same is true, I think, of a major league baseball team. 

Nashville is booming. 

Now less of you just need to move here so the traffic settles down.

Send your mailbag questions, anonymous or otherwise, to claytravis@gmail.com

I started listening to your show on my morning drive, and to be honest I had never heard of you before. This was about 6-7 months ago I began listening. I just want to say it is so refreshing to hear someone that doesn’t abide by the politically correct opinion that most radio hosts spout out daily.
 
My question is how much, if any, pressure do you receive from management to conform to the public opinion?
 
It seems to me that fox does a much better job of allowing their hosts to have their own personalities which is why I completely switched over and do not listen to espn at all anymore.
 
Thank you for your show, and thank you for having the balls to say what most don’t for fear of losing their job!

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.