All That and a Bag of Mail

It’s Friday and tomorrow college football season officially kicks off.

So if that doesn’t give you the energy to power through the rest of your work or school day, guess what will? The Friday Mailbag.

Joel Klatt is our guest on the Wins and Losses podcast. Rachel Bonnetta will be our guest next week and that will go up Sunday. If you aren’t already listening to these interviews, get on it now.

Here we go with your questions (both emailed and Tweeted):

Blankenship Tweets:

“Give us your college football final four.”

Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia in that exact order.

I know these aren’t wild selections, but I don’t buy into Jim Harbaugh winning the Big Ten this year and I think it’s pretty optimistic to expect Ryan Day to come in his first year as a head coach — with a brand new transfer quarterback — and immediately go undefeated or roll into the college football playoff at 13-1. (I know Lincoln Riley had immediate success at Oklahoma, but he inherited Baker Mayfield starting at quarterback. He didn’t have to plug in a new quarterback.)

I also don’t believe the Pac 12 will have a team good enough to quality for the playoff.

That leaves me with an ACC champ, the SEC champ, the Big 12 champ, and an at large, which I think will be Georgia.

Starting next week I’ll break down the college football playoff picture weekly in my Starting 11 column.

Patrick writes:

“Longtime reader and I’m a fan of the site. I haven’t seen much on the coverage of the ACC Network. It launched yesterday and will be televising the GT/Clemson game in a week. I live in Atlanta and most GT fans won’t be able to even watch the game since the network isn’t carried by Comcast/Charter/Uverse/Dish Network and many other cable companies. Any chance the network gets picked up in the next week?”

The ACC Network is launching at a really challenging time for the cable and satellite industry and partly as a result of these challenges I think that it will have more in common with the Pac 12 Network than it does the Big Ten and the SEC Networks.

That’s not to say it will be wildly unsuccessful or a disaster, I just think the overall market conditions are incredibly poor to be trying to launch a new cable channel right now. You’re trying to sell something new at a time when millions of people are abandoning cable and satellite subscriptions.

The SEC Network launched at the absolute perfect time, back in 2014, just as the first cracks were beginning to show in the cable business, but before the cable and satellite channels were aware of the disaster that was coming.

I think the ACC might well have been better off taking a bunch of money from ESPN to put the ACC Network exclusively on ESPN+ instead of launching their own cable/satellite network.

Indeed, I think you can make a strong case that the ACC Network will be the last major cable and satellite channel to launch in the world of sports.

Yesterday, on the day the ACC Network launched, I polled my Twitter audience on whether they’d be willing to switch cable or satellite providers over this issue. Twenty thousand of you voted and only 7% were willing to switch providers.

Given that my audience is made up of sports fans and skews way more to college football fans than the average audience would in this country, that’s not a very solid support level. (Some of you wanted to argue that my audience might skew in the direction of SEC fans. While that might be true I think this actually helps the number of poll voters who would support the ACC Network. SEC fans watch way more college sports, both in their conference and other conferences, than just about any other segment of the college fan base. So I think only 7% of my audience saying they’d switch for it actually means the numbers nationwide of people willing to do this are really, really small.)

Having said that, the real deadline isn’t the launch of the network, it’s when the first game airs on the network. ESPN and the ACC tried to pick a big game to launch with — Georgia Tech at Clemson on Thursday night — to create the biggest amount of pressure possible. But the Tigers are a 35+ point favorite in this game and most people will assume an easy Clemson win.

The best thing that could happen for the ACC Network is if Georgia Tech pulled off the upset — like when Michigan lost to Appalachian State in the inaugural game on the Big Ten Network — leading everyone to clamor for a channel they don’t have.

But that’s unlikely to happen here. Plus, once this game airs, how many more really compelling football match ups are airing on the network?

Here’s what ESPN’s website says about the football games that will be airing on the network in the near future:

“ACC Network will air 40 regular-season games this season. Here are some of the big ones:

Virginia Tech at Boston College on Aug. 31
Virginia at Pitt on Aug. 31
South Florida at Georgia Tech on Sept. 7
Miami at North Carolina on Sept. 7
Kansas at Boston College on Sept. 13
Florida State at Virginia on Sept. 14″I’m sorry, if these are some of the “big ones” what am I missing here?

Now I’m not saying I wouldn’t watch or gamble on some of these games, but there’s nothing on this list that’s must see television. Especially when so many college football games are already televised.

So I think the pressure on the cable and satellite companies to carry this network will actually decline once Georgia Tech-Clemson airs next Thursday.

Because once that game is missed, are fans going to blow up phone lines over Virginia Tech at Boston College? I don’t think so.

The way this channel will get picked up, I think, will be when ESPN’s carriage deals are ending with these other cable and satellite companies and they are able to get the ACC Network included as part of a larger deal. The big question here, by the way, is will one of these companies ever stand up to ESPN enough that ESPN — and all the ESPN channels — get pulled off a major provider? To my knowledge that has never happened, but it’s worth paying attention to as the business battles intensify in this industry.

Regardless, if you absolutely, positively have to watch your favorite team you can sign up for a streaming service that carries the ACC Network and then cancel after a couple of months.

That makes the cost relatively insubstantial.

But given that only a couple of your team’s football games, at most, will air on the ACC Network, you can also head out to the sports bar to watch it or search out a streaming option online that may or may not be legal.

I just think the era of launching new cable channels is essentially over and most schools and conferences should be focused on streaming their content more than trying to get a traditional cable channel up and running.

If I’d been advising the ACC, instead of trying to copy the SEC and the Big Ten, which is the clear intent here, I would have taken the ACC Network to ESPN+ and demanded a huge guaranteed rights payment from ESPN instead of rolling the dice on starting my own network.

Ultimately I think there are only two conferences that have the fan bases and the audience to make a conference network successful — the SEC and the Big Ten. And even those conferences aren’t going to escape the challenges buffeting the industry.

(By the way, the least talked about huge issue surrounding the ACC Network was how furious former SEC commissioner Mike Slive was with ESPN president John Skipper over the launch of the ACC Network. Slive swore Skipper promised him that ESPN would never partner with another conference to create a network when the SEC signed on with ESPN. Skipper’s decision to launch the ACC Network poisoned the SEC and ESPN relationship to a great deal and new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro has been working to reestablish strong ties with the conference.)

Zach writes:

“What do you make of Deadspin publicly criticizing their website’s parent company for their perceived wrongdoings by hiring “a bunch of white men”? This isn’t the first time they’ve done this and I’m curious why anyone,  SJWs included, think that they can repeatedly get away with bashing the boss without being fired. What would you do if you ran the company and how much longer can Deadspin continue to exist as fussy entity that doesn’t make crazy amounts of money for its bosses?”

First, every employee exists to help the company they work for make money.

This is how capitalism works.

If you believe you know better how to make money than your boss — or you believe your work is being undervalued by your boss — you can do what I did and start your own company.

No one, certainly not a writer, has a right to a job that allows them to ignore their bosses wishes.

So I think there’s a great deal of ignorance among many employees about the business dynamics underlying their employment. That’s why I always encourage everyone to think like an owner, not like an employee.

Second, the era of woke sports media is slowly coming to a close because the business behind woke sports media is collapsing.

Woke sports media is a product of outrage culture, which is predicated on driving pageviews by being perpetually outraged by everything. Outrage culture — and its kissing cousin, cancel culture — demands a new outrage every day to drive up the pageviews, thereby leading to a constant cycle of outrage, apology, contrition, and hand wringing.

The business of pageviews, to a large extent, is based on each day producing a new outrage.

Witness the latest outrage — people are threatening to boycott “Dancing With the Stars” because they put Sean Spicer on it.

Regardless of what you think about Sean Spicer, can you imagine caring this much about the casting of a reality TV dancer that you would spend your free time threatening to boycott a reality show? Especially when, you know, there are dozens if not hundreds of reality TV stars who have been convicted of felonies. And have their own shows! All Spicer did was work for the president.

It’s wild to me.

People click on stories like these because conflict sells, but those clicks are the cotton candy of the Internet, there’s no depth of connection that occurs. And most of the time the audience doesn’t even realize who is putting up the content.

The ultimate problem with the pageview model of Internet written discourse is its predicated on a quantity of pageviews as opposed to a quality of pageviews content.

And this model, which virtually every media entity has fallen off a cliff chasing, doesn’t — and hasn’t — existed anywhere else in consumer entertainment culture.

Compare, say, Internet writing with TV or streaming programming. The goal of every streaming company — or cable channel — is to produce the best quality of programming content possible, right? Everyone wants the next “Game of Thrones.” The business imperative is to create quality content that distinguishes you from your competitors.

That’s why all of these companies are spending billions of dollars to compete for the best creative talent — actors, writers, showrunners, producers, and camera crews.

The company with the best, unique, quality content wins in a streaming entertainment world.

Yet most Internet businesses have been run where everyone races to the bottom, where quantity is the goal over quality. Where lack of depth and intelligence triumphs.

Well, right now I think we’re seeing a pretty clear pivot from a quantity of pageviews universe to a quality of pageviews universe.

That trend is being led, from a business perspective in the written sports space, by The Athletic, which now has over 600,000 paid subscribers. Good for them.

And do you know what The Athletic doesn’t spend much time on?

Daily outrage!

Because their readers are sports fans, they don’t care what Colin Kaepernick is doing.

Readers, at least those willing to pay for content, want depth and intelligence of writing, not surface level clickbait.

Increasingly, if you want quality content, you have to pay for it. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, which was the first to wall off its content, the Washington Post, you name it and the higher the quality of content being produced, the more likely that content is to reside behind a paywall on the Internet now.

What’s left behind is the quantity — a large echo chamber of outrage — and a lot of dumb readers.

And what happens when you click on those outrage sites? It’s virtually impossible to even read anything now because there are so many pop-up videos and ads that your computer often freezes when you go there. Plus, again, they all have the same content.

In fact the challenge is becoming there is so much quality content out there that breaking through and getting an audience is becoming very difficult. And even if you do break through how many shows are stacked up in your DVR? How many podcasts are lined up in your phone? It’s just flat out hard to keep up with everything.

So I think we’re finally heading into an era where quality is all that matters and the best quality, the most unique of all of the best quality, is what cuts through the noise and wins.

And most woke sports media claptrap is bullshit, consumed by dumb people with no particular affinity for the people they are consuming.

This means the business imperatives have changed.

Third, as for Deadspin’s particular insults directed at their bosses, let me just say this, if you replace “white men” with any other race and sex, is the writer who makes that accusation likely to be fired? Yes, for sure. So why is it appropriate to complain about white men being hired for jobs, but if you complain about any other race or gender getting hired for jobs you’d be fired yourself.

I know it’s wild, but I’ve got a crazy idea — if it’s racist or sexist to say about any group then it should be racist or sexist to say about all groups.

There’s also, you know, nothing wrong with being a white guy. Are white guys perfect? Of course not. But no race or gender is. On balance, I feel pretty good about what white men have created in this world. I’ll ride or die with democracy and capitalism.

On balance that seems to have benefited all people, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

Armstrong Tweets:

“Will Fox’s Big Saturday show beat College Gameday in the ratings?”

For those who don’t know Fox is debuting a new Saturday morning pregame show that will air from 11-12 eastern on big Fox — the major broadcast network not the cable channel — and go head-to-head with College Gameday for an hour.

The Fox show will have Rob Stone, Matt Leinart, Brady Quinn, Urban Meyer, and Reggie Bush on it and will lead directly into a game kicking off at noon.

Next week’s game, for instance, will be FAU at Ohio State.

So there will be a big Buckeye contingent ready for kickoff that flips over to Fox, I’d think.

I’m not a ratings expert, but I think College Gameday will still win the head-to-head based on decades of fan familiarity with the concept. However I do think it will create a substantial rival to Gameday for the first time. (FS1 tried to compete with College Gameday with a show I was on back in 2013, but it was nearly impossible to compete with Gameday from an LA studio on a brand new sports network and the show was canceled after a year).

Fox’s new Saturday show will mostly be filmed in their Los Angeles studio, but they’ll go on the road for a few big games — OU-Texas and Ohio State-Michigan, for instance — and I think it’s pretty clear what Fox is setting up here.

In an ideal world Fox would like to get the SEC’s game of the week when the CBS deal expires. And what I think Fox would like to do — I’m guessing on this, by the way, no one has told me — is pair the Big Ten with a noon eastern kickoff leading into the SEC with a 3:30 eastern kickoff.

So you’d have two games on a major broadcast network featuring the nation’s two biggest conferences putting on their best games, a Big Ten and SEC doubleheader every Saturday.

And before that starts you’d have a big college football pregame show akin to what Fox does with the NFL on Sundays, except you’d eventually be able to take that show on the road to the site of one of your biggest games, say half of them in the Big Ten and half in the SEC.

Now that’s still several years in the future — and it might not end up coming to fruition — but I think that would be the ideal goal in the next several years, for Fox to have the Big Ten’s and the SEC’s first round TV draft picks and put them both on big Fox right after their pregame show.

Then you could have a blockbuster ten hour Saturday slate in the fall from 9 am et until 7 pm et.

And I think that package, all rolled together, would certainly be a major challenger to ESPN and College Gameday.

But that’s several years in the future.

For now Gameday will be very hard to beat.

Stephen writes:

“Why don’t more politicians come on Outkick like Tulsi Gabbard did? Her interview with you received more national attention than anything else she has done in campaign season.”

Two reasons:

1. I honestly don’t think most campaigns realize how big our Outkick audience is.

We just added radio stations in Detroit and Philadelphia for the start of football season, putting us in well over 300 markets, and we’re up 51% in adult listeners this year over last year. And that was after being up in a big way in the past three years as well.

If you’re trying to reach sports fans, we are one of the four or five biggest national radio shows in the entire country.

2. They are afraid of coming on the show because they’re afraid of me and the questions I might ask.

I can’t control their fear, but what I always say when I get asked questions like these is, you want the American public to trust your candidate to handle Iran and North Korea as president, but you’re worried they can’t handle a sports radio interviewer for 15 minutes?

To me that’s an indictment of the candidate and the people advising them.

Credit to Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign for realizing how many people they’d reach with me, but it takes a younger campaign and one that’s smart enough to chase a non-traditional audience in order to be willing to take the risk.

Given our reach and the fact that the 2020 election will be decided in Big Ten country, I think Donald Trump could do himself a ton of favors by coming on our show. But I also feel the same about Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete, or Bernie Sanders.

Trump won the presidency because he won Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin by a total of 80,000 votes. That’s one football stadium that determined the presidential election.

Why wouldn’t you do everything you can to reach sports fans on a show like mine? I have no idea. But I’d love to get Trump or the eventual Democratic nominee on the show and I think it would be smart for them to come on as well.

Plus, unlike a huge percentage of the media these days, I’ve proven myself to be fair to everyone.

That would hold true whether I was interviewing a Democrat or a Republican.

Thanks for reading Outkick.

Hope all of you have fantastic weekends.

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