Media Mailbag: PTI Post-Kornheiser, Fox News Top Talents, Illegal Streams

Another great week of questions for the Outkick Media Mailbag. The mailbag now goes live every Wednesday. Thank you for your support and questions.

Here we go:

“Who is Fox News’ most important talent after Hannity and Tucker?”

Great question. By the way, I’m working on a list that will clear this up more. Keep an eye out for that.

Chris Wallace is the name most would point to with the importance of his Sunday show. He’s the most recognizable name after Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. Wallace will interview President Donald Trump this weekend.

Day-to-day, though, there’s a case to be made for Brian Kilmeade and Laura Ingraham.

Kilmeade is all over the network. In addition to Fox and Friends, he hosts the Brian Kilmeade Show on Fox News Radio, appears on The Five, is a regular on Fox Nation, and fills in for Carlson in primetime. All assignments that are widely viewed. Fox News’ morning show is one of its most valuable properties and Kilmeade has been a key component to its success.

Ranting, hosting, interviewing, and bantering with co-hosts are distinctive skill-sets; Kilmeade excels at each of them.

Primetime is arguably the key measurement for cable news influence today. And Ingraham caps it off nightly for Fox News after Hannity and Carlson. While she inherits a historically large audience, she maintains it. Ingraham is a newsmaker. Both her monologues and interviews routinely generate next-day discussion. On many nights, The Ingraham Angle draws the third-largest audience on cable news. She’s become a star over the past few years.

It’s Hannity and Carlson at the top, in either order. Wallace, Kilmeade, and Ingraham are next.

“Your numbers on PTI yesterday were telling. When Tony retires will PTI continue? Who will replace him?”

I expect it to, yes. But it’s impossible to say without knowing when Tony Kornheiser will retire and what the television landscape will be at that time.

Mike Wilbon told me a few years ago, when I was at The Big Lead, he hopes and plans on continuing the show post-Kornheiser. Kornheiser is 72, Wilbon is 61. He made it clear he has no idea who would take over or if management would want to keep the show.

This is a fun, speculative topic. What I can say for sure: it’s not going to be easy. It wasn’t easy to replace Skip Bayless on First Take. And Bayless and Stephen A. Smith only did the show together five days a week for about four years. Chemistry can’t be manufactured, and Wilbon and Kornheiser’s extends beyond the show and the workplace.

The truth is, I have no idea who would replace Kornheiser. Nor does Wilbon. I doubt Erik Rydholm has any idea. 

But here are some ideas:

Scott Van Pelt and Rachel Nichols are two names who make sense. Now, both have prominent roles at ESPN and autonomy. But PTI is PTI. Neither would have to give up their current assignments completely. Nichols could still host the NBA pregame show; Van Pelt could still host SportsCenter on Sundays during the football season and at select times.

Van Pelt is moving to the DC studios, where PTI airs, and will fill in some, he’s said. Like Kornheiser, Van Pelt is self-deprecating and respected. He plays well off Wilbon during the NBA postseason on SportsCenter.

Nichols, like Wilbon and Kornheiser, has the Washington Post on her resume. Wilbon is fond of her and she’s filled-in before on the show. The two would click immediately and the show would continue its mixture of humor and sports fandom.

Frank Isola is the most-frequent fill-in on PTI. Thus, you can’t rule him out if he’s still occupying that role come decision time.

Again: no one knows who will replace Tony Kornheiser. It’s going to be a challenge.

“If sports don’t bounce back fully (which they may not with such a divided country politically and the continued insistence that the coronavirus is still a major threat to society), can ESPN survive in the content market against better competition like Barstool or OutKick? (Because they overpay lesser talents, let big names/talents go, alienate their fanbase as much as possible, hate ratings, etc. Not good if sports doesn’t bounce back)”

A lot to unfold here.

So, “survive” is the wrong word. ESPN is always going to be at the top of sports content on TV. The reason is, as you say, live sports. The games the night before lead to viewers leaving the channel on ESPN. It’s why ESPN’s morning shows do so well on Tuesdays — households still have the channel on from Monday Night Football the night before.

That’s TV, which when it comes to sports shows, is on the rapid decline. ESPN’s concerns should be in the podcast space, where it’s losing. Live rights don’t matter when choosing a podcast. Listeners pick the best one. Podcasts don’t come on after games, they are searched for.

ESPN has fallen behind in this category. In June, Barstool topped it in global streams and downloads by 10 million.

I was just discussing PTI, Pardon My Take is digital media’s PTI. Barstool has that, not ESPN. I doubt any sports podcast will catch it.

As pointed out yesterday, the top three sports podcasts, in order, came from Barstool, Outkick, and The Ringer.

Moving forward, it’s going to matter much less who a talent works for; it will depend on their individual reach and interest.

You mention the possibility of sports not bouncing back. I have concerns that the next few seasons will be rough with kneeling, social statements, and athletes’ involvement in political commentary. It’s bad for business and makes the majority of sports content less appealing. In this scenario, the beneficiaries are the outlets who either a) differ from mainstream sports coverage, or b) ignore the politicization of the sports. Neither of those will be ESPN.

“Media mailbag- is it possible to find out how many people illegally stream events such as UFC fights, boxing matches, or even NBA games on cable?”

Ha! I wish. I bet it’s a ton.

No, there isn’t a way for us to check after each fight and game. But some numbers have been reported. Though, the reporting probably isn’t 100% accurate as it’s hard to track the bevy of free services online.

VFT Solutions, which tracks signal piracy, reported that over 20 million people illegally streamed Wilder-Fury II in February. That’s wild. No wonder the megafight with months of intrigue sold only 800,000 pay-per-views.

It’d be staggering if this past weekend’s UFC 251, which sold 1.3 million pay-per-views, wasn’t illegally streamed to a similarly enormous degree.

The number of fight fans seeking free, illegal online streams has only increased recently. ESPN only allows ESPN+ subscribers to purchase UFC fights. Viewers hate paying for anything in 2020. What’s more, when they have to pay to pay for something.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.


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  1. Hey Bobby,
    Kilmeade has also written 6 books; 5 of them NYT best sellers. Laura’s done excellent work covering COVID every night, with experts to back up the data. Two important assets for Fox! Thanks!

  2. i like your work a lot but in my opinion chris wallace isn’t top 15 on fox. i understand he is a big name but that’s because he is a never trumper who asks tough questions to conservatives but gives softball interviews to democrats.

    check out greg gutfeld, jesse waters, dana perino, lawrence jones, gianno caldwell, bill hemmer, bret baier, harris faulkner, shannon bream, lisa booth, i could keep going.

  3. Chris Wallace is way too biased against Trump. He and Cavuto hate Trump..Tucker Carlsonhas the other side on his show every nite and will call out Trump when he disagrees..Wallace is not in the same league as Tucker, LI. SH or the Great One..Levin. Juan W, Cavuto and Wallace have advanced TDS

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