Meadowlark: A Creator-Centric Media Company

Dan Le Batard officially left ESPN earlier this month after a 22-year career at the network, but what does he plan to do next?

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Late last year, ESPN fired 500 employees as part of a wider reorganization and cost-cutting effort, including Chris Cote — one of Dan Le Batard’s on-air producers.

Here’s what Dan Le Batard said about the firing:

“We were blindsided by him being let go. It’s the greatest disrespect of my career that I got no notice, no collaboration.”

His response?

After 22-years at the network, Le Batard asked to be released early from his contract.

Last month, that request was granted, with Le Batard officially hosting his last episode of “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz” and “Highly Questionable.”

In the weeks since we’ve gained clarity around what he plans to do next.

What is it?

A “creator-centric” media company — Meadowlark Media — with former ESPN President John Skipper.

First, it’s important to get a lay of the land.

After joining ESPN as general manager of ESPN the Magazine in 1997, John Skipper spent more than two decades rising the ranks — eventually becoming President and co-chairman of the sports media behemoth before leaving in 2017.

Put simply, his resume is incredible.

Here are a few highlights:

  • Negotiated a 9-year, $12 billion NBA & ESPN media deal

  • Negotiated a $7.3 billion deal for the College Football Playoff

  • Negotiated broadcast rights for all four tennis grand slams & the Master’s Tournament

After taking a short break to focus on his personal life, John Skipper joined the DAZN Group — an over-the-top (OTT) sports streaming service — as executive chairman in 2018.

Now, DAZN is allowing Skipper to team up with Dan Le Batard and create Meadlowlark Media, a “creator-centric” original content company with “an initial focus on sports.”

While that sounds confusing, the concept is actually quite simple.

Rather than explain it myself, I’ll let John Skipper take it from here:

“I’ve been asked if this was a venture or an adventure and I believe it is, in fact, both. 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.”

Here’s how I think about it…

Skipper and Le Batard have a simple three-step plan:

  1. License existing content (Le Batard assets)

  2. Raise money

  3. Create more content

In his exit negotiation, ESPN allowed Le Batard to maintain ownership of his top-10 podcast RSS feed, meaning he gets to bring his existing audience with him wherever he goes.

That’s obviously valuable.

Furthermore, Front Office Sports reports that Meadowlark Media will look to raise an additional $10-$15 million, which will allow them to partner with “industry-leading storytellers on a variety of content projects.”

The interesting part?

Given the rise of Clay Travis and his conservative-focused media company Outkick, John Skipper and Dan Le Batard plan to build Meadlowlark Media as a progressive, liberal-leaning enterprise.

Don’t get me wrong, I more than anyone hate the idea of politics and sports being meshed together, but in a world that seems to be increasingly reliant on an emotional attachment to political bias, it certainly makes sense why they would do it.

Is it a good idea?

Only time will tell.

With media & content companies like Netflix spending almost $20 billion on content creation annually, the idea to create Meadowlark Media certainly seems to make sense — especially when you consider the widening gap in sports content.

In the end, Meadowlark Media has one distinct advantage — Dan Le Batard.

Le Batard is not only a co-owner but he is the talent.

He’ll continue to produce and license his own content at an extremely low cost, but he’ll also attract similar talent that he already has a working relationship with — think Bomani Jones & Jemele Hill.

In a world that is increasingly dominated by content quantity & quality — think Netflix, Peacock, Etc. — the shift to sports seems like a natural progression.

As for the inclusion of political bias?

Now, that’s what I would keep an eye on.

Have a great day, and we’ll talk tomorrow.

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Extra Credit

With the legendary Hank Aaron passing away on Friday, I decided to write a thread about him this weekend.

While the thread lacks the typical incredible investment returns or mind-blowing statistics, I think you guys will enjoy the historical context around his life.

In the simplest of terms, he was an incredible man.

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