Sports media reporters' coverage of the John Skipper-Dan Le Batard partnership has predictably become show fodder in podcast form, and interest shows no signs of abating for a few reasons. One, there are many clicks to be had in the pursuit of scoopage. A reasonable person would give up their non-round-number wedding anniversary celebrations to chase down the latest lead. Two, it's objectively interesting to see what the pair is cooking up.
Much of the focus has been on finding a landing spot for what used to be a terrestrial radio show, which Skipper himself has identified as Job One in a conversation series with Le Batard, which is two episodes into at least a four-episode order.
In today's installment, Skipper offered new details on the plans for Meadowlark Media, including a new piece that may change some existing conceptions.
"I've been asked if this was a venture or an adventure and I believe it is, in fact, both," Skipper said. "If we want to simply describe what we're doing, we're forming a company. That company's going to be focused — at least initially — on sports content. That company is called Meadowlark. What we're going to do across all genres of sports (is) try to create best-in-class content. Whether that be your radio show, the Le Batard & Friends podcast, Highly Questionable television show. Could be scripted and unscripted, reality or dramatic, or comedic episodic content. (It) could be documentaries, could be feature stories, could be books. We want wherever great stories are, we want to tell them in a multitude of genres.
"We are not, however, going to publish them on a platform that's called Meadowlark. What we want to do is to sell them to third parties. In doing so, and in creating a pipeline of those projects, executing them, selling them, we want to become known as the supplier of choice. The standard-bearer for what it means to create sports content."
Skipper pointed out that while it's easy to identify who makes the best animated work (Pixar, in his mind), it's more difficult identify the premier independent creator of sports content. He believes that there is currently a great need for that right now, which will only increase as sports follow the lead of music and entertainment, which have become more focused on streaming services — a lesson learned in his current position at DAZN, where he's tasked with finding sports programs to support the live rights portion.
This is important definition for the people like myself who were envisioning Meadowlark to set out and explore a trail parallel to what Bill Simmons did with The Ringer. Based on these comments, it does not appear there will be a central hub for all tentacles of this operation.
Selling freelance content is the very definition of living on the edge as so many creatives can tell you, though very few have someone with the connections and track record of Skipper to figure it all out.
He elaborated on the opportunity here, as more and more players get into the game.
"I think that lots and lots of these companies and platforms don't know that they need more sports," he said. "Sports really, really matters to people and I think when you go on these services you want to see more sports. I think that you're entering a place that a lot of the traditional sports media companies are — I think to a degree beyond what is necessary — they want to stick to sports and only the sports events. I think there's going to be an opportunity for somebody else to make that content that complements the sports experience, that connects it to the culture and the society of our country and the world."
It remains to be seen what a model like this means for the written word, which figures to be an important part of company going forward, as both men have an affinity for journalism in that form. From the outside, it appears Le Batard is diving in headfirst to his role as a creator and is relying in Skipper to handle the business side.
Today's Mystery Crate episode featured question's from the show's Reddit community, one of which was what success would look like for the new venture.
"Just fun with our friends," Le Batard said. "Laughter and a career. I'm not interested in conquering the world. I'm interested in creating a safe environment for our family that could birth content and fruit and love and laughter and be around for a long time whether I'm here or not."
A model like this comes with almost limitless possibilities and it's going to be fascinating to see the stable of talented people who jump aboard the pirate ship as it sails into — what at this point seems to be — all the world's seven seas. Such a plan would helpfully silo off the creatives so they can do their best work free of commercial influence and red tape, but it will also require a tremendous amount of negotiating on the business side.
All of this makes sense when you stop to think about it. Le Batard and Skipper came together and have devised a strategy that will allow each party to do what they do best. That's no accident.
One last thought: much of the intrigue has been centered around the future of the former ESPN radio show. But it's becoming increasingly clear that the show is a smaller piece of the bigger puzzle than a lot of people, including those tasked with following the developments, initially realized or still haven't realized.
That's not to say it will be marginalized. It's to say it'll be a star with more company in the constellation. There are rather audacious plans underway that, at least on paper, offer the opportunity to put fingerprints on the future of sports entertainment in a profoundly ubiquitous way.
Yes. Yes. Very intriguing.