The sports media marketplace has long lacked independent thinkers, personalities who don’t just disobey the Left but who challenge it, hosts who relate to sports fans watching games on Sundays, not loud Twitter accounts looking for retweets. But rather than address this need, Front Office Sports reports that Dan Le Batard and John Skipper are working on a “progressive response to OutKick.” They plan to go even further Left than they were, together, at ESPN.
This idea is the antithesis of innovation. The market share for this worldview is beyond oversaturated. Should some other media personality respond to Barstool by creating unfunny sports coverage? Should Don Lemon leave CNN to form an anti-Trump alternative to OANN? Please, someone, invent a Twitter alternative that will censor conservatives and let China call the genocide “emancipated.”
Launching a far-Left political company isn’t just overdone, it also does not respond directly to OutKick. Clay Travis has voted for Democrats and Republicans. Ryan Glassipegel voted for Joe Biden. I’m a conservative who fears what the Democrats will do with control of the House, Senate, and White House. If Joe Kinsey has political views, he hasn’t made them known. OutKick employees have a variety of political beliefs.
Good luck to them. I welcome anyone who wants to start their own media business. Yay, capitalism. But this will just make @outkick even more successful because it pushes the rest of the sports media industry even farther left. It’s a woke knife fight to see who is the purest.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) January 12, 2021
Based on this report, it seems like Le Batard and Skipper are trying to attract yet another audience hungry for more Leftist political drivel, for further condemnation of the country as a whole, for more accusations of racism, and for more cancel culture. That’s what this is about.
The plan skips right over the center-Left and aims directly for the radicals, for those who support Joy Reid, Bernie Sanders, and Al Sharpton. This is clear by the personalities the two are interested in featuring: Jemele Hill, Bomani Jones, and Kate Fagan.
Le Batard has a digital audience. He scored a major win in retaining his show’s feeds from Apple and Spotify. These subscribers and most of Le Batard’s audience already consume his content in podcast form. Le Batard will maintain this audience. But part of the upside of independent media is that the overhead can be kept small. Hill, Jones, and Fagan would be expensive, and none of them would bring a large audience with them.
Of the three, Hill is the most noteworthy. Her Q-rating is actually higher than Le Batard’s. Hill did well at ESPN until she went extreme. Now she is mostly a Twitter star, who gets attention for making despicable comments. Maybe she can bring her following to a show with Le Batard and Skipper, but she hasn’t yet been able to do so at Vice.
Le Batard knows Bomani Jones well. As the third wheel behind Le Batard and his father, Jones co-hosted Highly Questionable and did fine. However, Jones has proven he is not a lead. After losing over 90 affiliates and drawing the worst ratings in ESPN Radio history, Jones’ radio show was canceled. ESPN then gave him a TV show that first failed at noon, then at 4 p.m. before it was canceled outright.
Kate Fagan is relatively unknown, but sources inside ESPN say she showed promise during her time with the network.
The next question is monetization. Le Batard now has to directly make money off his audience. Skipper will try to sell a deal to a podcast service that I expect will attract some suitors, though a company built around Le Batard, Hill, and Jones is not advertiser-friendly. It’d appeal to a niche but alienate 75% of the country.
SiriusXM makes the most sense. The project would then be less reliant on sponsors, and Le Batard could lead into his other employees, who otherwise wouldn’t have an audience. Listeners are more likely to keep a channel on than download or subscribe to another podcast.
Outlets can find success in putting all or select content behind a paywall, if the content is unique, but this project is not. It merely repeats the ESPN model, which features Leftist propaganda disguised as sports talk.
While Le Batard and Skipper’s business direction is flawed, each individual in the media should root for its success. Such industry moves always have a domino effect. Dan Patrick paved the way for Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, and Charissa Thompson to leave ESPN. Cowherd elevated his status post-ESPN, and others have since followed suit. The industry is now inching toward an entrepreneurial era, led by Dave Portnoy. Each time it works, out of touch executives lose a step of power. That’s a win for the industry.