Before answering this week’s mailbag questions, I have some media news:
Yesterday morning, Colin Cowherd sparked speculation by tweeting, “My life is about to get more interesting.” Media sources tell OutKick that Cowherd is shopping for property in Las Vegas for both studio space and a house. Sources add that the move relates to the increasingly lucrative opportunities in the sports gambling industry.
My life bout to get more interesting. 🧐
— Colin Cowherd (@ColinCowherd) December 9, 2020
Cowherd, who began his career in Las Vegas, currently resides and broadcasts from Los Angeles.
Since the legalization of sports gambling, sportsbooks have looked to get into business with media talents to grow their brands and drive user sign-ups. Notably, Penn National Gaming acquired a 36% stake in Barstool Sports at a $450 million valuation. Since the start of the year, industry experts have pointed to Cowherd as a likely target for major gambling companies.
Cowherd was among the first mainstream sports hosts to attach sports gambling to his brand with his “Blazing Five” segment, which has grown since he left ESPN for Fox Sports Radio and FS1.
Though initially a radio show, The Herd has simultaneously evolved into a digital brand across Facebook, YouTube, and the podcast services — all of which attract gambling audiences.
Sources note that a timetable is not yet determined.
Here’s the mailbag:
“Is losing Dan Le Batard a loss for ESPN? You don’t seem to think of him as highly as other media reporters.”
Instead of giving you a yes or a no, I’ll go through the process of finding the answer.
On radio, Le Batard is not a loss. His show didn’t rate on terrestrial and was an awkward transition for affiliates’ national and local shows.
Le Batard’s loss on TV solely depends on how poor ESPN’s decisions will be in the near future. The network can easily move off Highly Questionable, bump Jalen and Jacoby back to ESPN2, and air SportsCenter from 2-3 p.m. ET. That’s the move to make. However, ESPN opted to keep HQ going with a rotation of hosts who can’t draw ratings. On HQ, Le Batard either maintained ESPN’s base audience or slightly increased it. Bomani Jones, Pablo Torre, Sarah Spain, Elle Duncan, and Katie Nolan instead bring the viewership below the base, yet ESPN still re-signed Nolan, Jones, Torre, and Spain to contract extensions this year. All four need Le Batard and his platforms. From this perspective, Le Batard is a loss for them and ESPN — an expensive loss, too.
Digitally, Le Batard was ESPN’s biggest podcast draw, though ESPN didn’t have the monetization down to industry standards. A rival company can and will make more from Le Batard’s show than ESPN has. But, yes, losing Le Batard hurts ESPN’s podcast network.
Then there’s the drama. Le Batard was a headache for ESPN, broadcasting every issue he had with management on air. Obviously, ESPN had to sign off on his leaving, so they must have calculated that his upside was no longer worth the downside.
That’s the process. Draw from it whatever conclusions you will.
“What grade would you give the MNF booth this season? Seems like there’s been less criticism of this booth than the last two years, but then again the bar was set pretty low.”
Yes and yes. The MNF booth has received nowhere near the same amount of criticism this year as it has in the past three years, not two. The bar was set low, but the new booth still had to improve. And it has.
Brian Griese, Louis Riddick, and Steve Levy are NFL-caliber broadcasters, but the trio is not on the same level as the A-teams on Fox, NBC, and CBS.
If ESPN/ABC get into the Super Bowl rotation and/or add a second package — Thursday Night Football is possible — then they will probably look to upgrade. Kirk Herbstreit would likely be in consideration. That said, the trio could remain together to broadcast one of two packages.
Disclosure: OutKick founder Clay Travis is an on-air host on Fox Sports Radio.