Media Mailbag: Most Valuable Talent in Media, Contract Negotiations, NFL Ratings Dropping

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Here we go:

"Question, with ESPN's low ratings, do you expect any changes to how on-air talent is compensated? Have you seen any changes already as to how ESPN is analyzing on-air talent compensation? Seems like Mike Greenberg hit the market at its apex a few years ago? No offense to Greenberg and w/due deference to Mike, hard to see ESPN paying anyone the money he is allegedly getting? Contrasting Greenberg, appears Wingo and Golic's contracts expiring at the worst time? Golic has been a part of ESPN for so long, hard to see him leaving?"

A lot to get to here.

A talent's salary is mostly predicated on leverage. If there's a competing offer from the competition, a network is inclined to pay more. If a talent's value above replacement is substantial, they will likely earn more with a new deal. There are a few other factors that play in, such as backstage politics, agents, and the opinions of the decision-makers.

With that said, it's no secret that networks are in cost-cutting mode. Especially right now in the absence of sports during a pandemic. Sources tell Outkick several talents have received lower offers, as a result. It's arguably the worst time to negotiate a contract in sports.

You mention Wingo and Golic, both of their futures are unknown. It's expected the morning show Golic and Wingo will soon come to an end, as we've reported.

It'd be a mistake if ESPN doesn't re-sign Trey Wingo, whose contract is set to expire in the coming months. He's the network's best NFL host and it doesn't have a replacement for him to host the draft, a valuable property. A return to NFL Live isn't happening; Laura Rutledge will be the new host, sources told Outkick last week. ESPN should explore adding Wingo later in the radio lineup, where there will be openings, as well. It's harder to see where Mike Golic fits; however, he's a big-name, likable talent.

The most intriguing name to watch is Skip Bayless. His four-year deal with FS1 expires at the end of the summer. Bayless is a difference-maker on linear television. As a result, he's one of the few irreplaceable personalities.

As for ESPN's low ratings, maybe they should offer a different perspective if they are going to go all-in on social issues. I thought they learned something in 2016. It doesn't appear so.

Since you ranked Portnoy and Simmons 1-2, does that mean Rogan is number one in all of media?

He'd be my pick right now, yes. Though, it's not as clear-cut as it was for Portnoy and Simmons on the sports version. Sports television show ratings are on the decline and the industry is moving digitally faster than the rest of the media. This bodes well for Portnoy and Simmons, who we ranked ahead of Stephen A. Smith, the top sports TV talent. When you consider all of media, it includes cable news. From the data recorded this week (Monday-Wednesday), Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight are both averaging over 4 million viewers. Both Fox News hosts are in the running for the title, along with Joe Rogan.

It's so close between the three the answer varies on the day. I'll stick with Rogan, for now, due to his licensing deal with Spotify, which is worth over $100 million. But Carlson has been in the headlines nearly every day as of a late and has been leading cable news in viewership. Hannity and Carlson are often close, with the news deciding the winner. Carlson often wins when social topics lead; Hannity benefits from traditional political stories. This fall, with the election, Hannity could close the gap between Rogan, with Carlson moving to third.

On an open market, a metric we used to rank sports media talents, Rogan is the answer. Depending on the length of his deal with Spotify, Rogan could cash in several more times as the podcast wars are just beginning. Rogan also doesn't need a network or company. He was doing quite well before his new deal.

“Do you anticipate a ratings drop with the NFL if teams decide to kneel during National Anthem? Thank you for the great work you do for Outkick.”


When players kneel and it gets attention, viewers tune out. That's not political, that's data. In fact, it's already a story for this upcoming football season. Viewers will look for it, players will talk about it, and the media will, undoubtedly, make sure it's a part of the daily conversation. This means the NFL's momentum from last season will crash and burn.

It's reminiscent of 2016 when the NFL's ratings tanked with the combination of a polarizing election and widespread anthem protest conversations. When this happened, television partners lost hundreds of millions of dollars.

For me, it's how far the ratings fall, not if. I'll predict it's not quite as bad — but still bad — as before because the on-field storylines are much better. Tom Brady's first season in Tampa Bay is the most intriguing preseason sports story since LeBron James' move to Miami. Patrick Mahomes is the best show in sports. If you were to write the script of the greatest football ever, the first three seasons would look nearly identical to Mahomes'. In addition, the clock is ticking on Aaron Rodgers' time with the Packers amid the selection of Jordan Love.

But, yes, I predict a drop is coming.

By the way, it will be entertaining to see the untrustworthy sports media spend months discussing the NFL's "decline" while refusing to acknowledge the NBA's ugly past two seasons.

“Do you see the NHL getting a major TV contract in the next 5-10 years?”

Depends on what your definition of "major" is. I expect it to be better than the current deal but not enough of an upgrade to satisfy hockey fans.

NBC Sports’ 10-year U.S. rights deal expires after the 2020-2021 season. Speaking to sources around the industry, there's a good chance the NHL picks up at least another broadcast partner. The two that'll likely be the most aggressive are NBC (in keeping its package) and Disney.

It's unclear what an unprecedented summer return will do to the NBA and NHL schedules moving forward. But as of now, the two leagues essentially start and end at the same time. Thus, ESPN/ABC is limited in how much NHL it could air. Meaning, ESPN+ would be the most likely destination for national hockey broadcasts under ESPN. That'd be fine for the NHL's regular season, but not for major playoff games. It'd be a downgrade for any games that would otherwise air on NBC Sports Network (the cable channel). The NHL would benefit greatly if at least a few of its playoff games aired on ESPN or ESPN2. Perhaps, the nights TNT airs the NBA.

You can never rule FOX out. FOX has more flexibility than ESPN during the season with its FS1 channel. And then there are the tech giants. I'm less convinced than others that Apple, Google, and Amazon will be serious players in the next five years for live sports. Especially with the NHL, which isn't an ideal fit.

Disclosure: Outkick’s founder Clay Travis is an on-air personality at FS1.


Written by
Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics.. Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.