What Skip Bayless’s massive payday says about the future of sports TV
There is at least one top sports expert who is thrilled with Skip Bayless’s huge salary with Fox Sports. On his radio show Friday, former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee welcomed the news for one reason: YouTube.
McAfee’s show, which also airs simultaneously on SiriusXM, is the most watched sports show on YouTube, 54 million monthly views. Bayless talk show with Shannon Sharpe, Undisputed, attracts approximately 42 million monthly views – good for second place in the general classification.
“With Skip being on the second biggest sports show every day, behind another show, if you watch pretty much all of the analysis,” McAfee said on his show Friday, by the New York Post. “This is great f-king news.”
At first glance, Fox Sports’ decision to pay Bayless $ 32 million over four years seems odd, given Undisputed usually just attracts 130,000 to 150,000 viewers per day on TV. But cable is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the equation, even for a television network. The media industry has just suffered its worst year ever for cord cutting, with only 60% of occupied households now paying for television. Cable and satellite combined for 1.4 million canceled subscriptions in the fourth quarter alone.
The future is streaming, which is why ESPN reportedly sued Bayless so strongly. The world leader wanted to reunite Bayless with Stephen A. Smith for a daily show on his streaming service, ESPN +, reports Andrew Marchand from the Post Office. ESPN were apparently still interested in adding Bayless even after agreeing to their Fox Sports deal.
When Bayless signed his first contract with Fox Sports in 2016, it would have been unfathomable to imagine him or any other figure doing duplication. But nowadays, it’s less of a concern. Disney is fully involved in streaming.
By Disney’s latest earnings call, Disney + now has 94.9 million subscribers, ESPN + pulling 12.1 million. A year ago, ESPN + had 7.6 million subscribers. That’s over 50% increase over one year.
Without a doubt, the Disney +, ESPN +, and Hulu package for one price has been a godsend for subscription numbers. But anyway, ESPN must be thrilled with its new streaming reach. In 2013, the network was present in 100 million homes; now it’s in just 83 million. Last year ESPN announced that it was laying off 300 more people and not filling 200 more positions.
ESPN’s reported lawsuit of Bayless – Marchand says Bayless was offered four years in the $ 30 million range – illustrates his current priorities.
Years ago, it was believed that people leaving ESPN sacrificed visibility and capital. Bayless shows that is no longer the case, as does Jemele Hill. The latter recently in partnership with Spotify develop a podcast network to uplift black women. There are so many more platforms today.
Enter McAfee, whose show went on without the support of any traditional network or rights agreements. While Bayless was returning to Fox Sports for $ 8 million a year, McAfee would likely hold onto a lot more before selling its program to another entity. Look at Bayless: its TV audience is a minimal component of its value. This is about his exposure on YouTube and other social platforms, where his rants go viral – even when they are wildly offensive.
At 69, Bayless is unlikely to feel compelled to start his own media business and produce his own content. But it’s clear that its reach is unrelated to Fox Sports. In today’s democratized content world, personalities can cultivate their own followers without the help of mainstream media. Television is not as important as it used to be.
Over the past two decades, we’ve seen newspaper brands act as digital-first operations that also publish print editions. It’s easy to imagine that TV networks will soon see themselves as streaming networks that also have a cable channel. The Bayless lawsuit shows that it may already be.