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Another great week of questions for the weekly Outkick Media Mailbag. This week, I took questions from Outkick VIP members and through my Parler account, @bobbyburack. Subscribe and follow, respectively.
Here we go:
“Is it even possible to determine the impact of the loss of college football on the media landscape, from the loss of revenue from ESPN/ABC/CBS down to the individual college broadcasts, not to mention websites, podcasts, etc?”
Man, not a fun question. But important.
To answer it directly, no. Not right now as so much is up in the air. As I’m writing this, fall SEC, ACC, and Big 12 seasons are planned.
But using your hypothetical, let’s look at it:
For the broadcast partners, there is no way to weather the loss. College football is big business. It’s a key component to its partners’ revenue streams. If there are games in the spring — referring to the Big 10 — some of that could be offset
Over the weekend, sources repeatedly used the word “devastating” to describe the impact it’d have on the media. It’s important to note, on Saturday, there were growing concerns all Power 5 conferences would pull out this week. Today, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Still, around the industry, there are grave concerns. This leads to the second part of your question.
If ESPN/ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC lose out college football, that’s less money they can spend on broadcasters, now and moving forward. Layoffs are possible. Furthermore, lost games would loom over upcoming talent contract negotiations. This goes for low and high tier broadcasters and personalities.
As for websites and podcasts: it depends. Those affiliated with college football’s broadcast partners — ESPN, Fox, CBS, NBC sites —would feel the impact. Obviously, it would crush the college football-centric websites/podcasts. There are websites that exist merely to serve fan bases on Saturdays in the fall.
Now, I don’t want to be overdramatic here. Even if the worst-case scenario occurs, college football media won’t get wiped clean. Several college football talents contribute to other sports. Its top stars — Paul Finebaum and Kirk Herbstreit — would be fine. Additionally, networks still need writers, reporters, broadcasters, and producers for future seasons.
Let’s just hope there are enough games this fall to get through 2020.
“I’m curious to get your opinion on the future of these sports talk shows. You’ve previously written on the decline in ratings, even with the return of sports, and how that is likely due to the fact that sports have heavily leaned into left wing politics. So how do these shows get their audience back? I realize the simple answer is to stop talking/interjecting politics into every conversation, but it seems to me that is a long term solution. Taking myself as an example, I used to watch a lot of sports talk programming. Now it is rarely ever. I watch a lot of Golf Channel since they are simply talking about golf and not politics, but I realize that I am in the minority since I am an avid golfer and long-time fan of the game. I think it would make sports talk shows jobs easier if the sports themselves would just stick to sports, but I’m not exactly sure that will happen and with college football likely being canceled for 2020, how will these sports talk shows stay alive. Keep up the good work BB!”
I fear the audiences won’t return to what they were.
On the TV side, the industry was already descending due to cord-cutting, social media, and younger generations consuming less TV. Sports television peaked, and it did so years ago.
Now, that’s combined with a disastrous pivot, which as you accurately state, mixes in left-wing politics. It mirrors the direction of 2016, the one that tanked ratings across the industry.
This time, it’s even worse. It’s more irresponsible, more partisan, more divisive, and more toxic. Over the past few months, sports media members haven’t just told you out they felt, if you opposed, they criminalized you.
Personalities presented controversial opinions as facts. They denounced those who questioned their conclusions. They used the terms “racist” “and “bigot” as third-graders use “stupid” and “dumb.” What’s more, they fell even more out of touch with sports fans.
Yesterday, I asked Will Cain about this. As he succinctly put it, “You have this vortex that makes everyone think that one singular point of view is rational, smart, correct, and reflects the audience. Cain went on to tell Outkick, “and anybody outside of that point of view they call a contrarian for contrarian’s sake, an attention seeker, or more recently, a racist. That causes them to spin off in extreme directions with their points of view and their topic selection. And their love of sports is totally disconnected from the audience.”
He’s right. Thus, why even with sports back, the ratings for the daily studio shows remain alarmingly low.
On Monday, PTI, per usual, ranked No. 1. But it did so with a mediocre, for its standards, 481,000 viewers. Other programs failed to reach 300,000 viewers, via ShowBuzzDaily:
First Take —272,000; Around the Horn — 245,000; Get Up — 221,000; Highly Questionable — 189,000; Undisputed —107,000.
Remember, several of these shows are NBA-first, even over the NFL. This is their time.
Moving forward, there’s no certainty that omitting political and social topics would bring viewers back. It might be too late. The most recent overaggressive push to politicize sports coverage went too far. The industry wrote in ink who is welcome and who is not.
“What do you think of Deion Sanders joining Barstool? Will people listen to his podcast?”
It’s a great pickup for Barstool. It further proves how times are changing. In sports, star talents are choosing digital media over TV. In 2020, with no TV presence, both Dave Portnoy and Bill Simmons cashed in for life-changing, nine-figure deals.
If Barstool can pay personalities salaries that are equitable to the networks, it’s all of a sudden, a go-to destination. At Barstool, there is greater freedom, a rabid fan base, innovative decision-makers, and pro-talent executives.
Furthermore, with distance, Barstool leads the sports industry in podcasting. In July, per Podtrac’s measurements, Barstool was the fourth most successful podcast publisher. Barstool had 9,084,000 unique monthly U.S. listeners; ESPN had 7,543,000.
Barstool is the ideal place for Sanders to launch a podcast. He’s a unique, energetic, over-the-top star personality.
Good move for both sides.