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Volume 26 No. 114
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SBJ College: Paul Finebaum Exploring Options

BREAKING NEWS in front of the paywall tonight: Paul Finebaum is negotiating with TV networks about a sitcom based on his life; such a move would see him leave ESPN and SEC Network.

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Here's what's cooking on campus.

       

THE KING OF THE SOUTH COULD BE ON THE MOVE

  • Paul Finebaum and his reps at CAA have met with all four major networks to gauge interest in a sitcom about the 64-year-old radio/TV personality, his call-in show and its many colorful characters. A sitcom is one of several opportunities Finebaum is exploring as he nears the end of his contract at ESPN and SEC Network, sources say. Finebaum’s $5 million, three-year deal runs through next summer, but sources say he could leave as early as the end of the 2020 college football season.

  • The wheels clearly are in motion for Finebaum’s next move. If he does leave ESPN, the potential landing spots, sources say, are:

    • A startup modeled after The Ringer.
    • DAZN
    • Sports Illustrated, Fox or some other media platform.

  • Finebaum has been approached about creating a Bill Simmons-style media property similar to The Ringer, a website and podcasting network that sold to Spotify earlier this month for a reported $250 million. Simmons’ timing was impeccable -- he grew The Ringer’s number of podcasts to more than 30 at a time when audio started booming, which helped him maximize the business’ value. Finebaum’s show theoretically would be the anchor for a podcast and editorial business. One scenario has it based inside the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

  • Separately, plans are under way to produce a documentary that would chronicle how Finebaum, dubbed the “King of the South” in a New Yorker piece in 2012, rose from local radio host in Birmingham to a leading national voice on college football.

  • The idea for a sitcom about a sports media talent is unusual, but not unprecedented. “Listen Up!,” which ran on CBS in 2004-05, was based on Tony Kornheiser. Finebaum’s meetings with network execs have reached the highest levels, including one sit-down with ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke.

  • John Skipper hired Finebaum and made him the face of SEC Network for its launch in 2014. Now, Skipper could be responsible for luring Finebaum away from ESPN. Finebaum’s friendship with Skipper, who is DAZN executive chair, has led to discussions about a new role for Finebaum and his show if the host decides to leave ESPN, sources say. The Big Lead back in November noted that Finebaum and Skipper had met. The DAZN opportunity would mimic what the streaming service did recently with Pat McAfee, which has been met with mixed reviews. A deal would include Finebaum’s daily program streamed on DAZN with a radio partner like Cumulus or SiriusXM carrying the audio.

 

Finebaum’s $5 million, three-year deal with ESPN and SEC Network runs through next summer
Finebaum’s $5 million, three-year deal with ESPN and SEC Network runs through next summer
Finebaum’s $5 million, three-year deal with ESPN and SEC Network runs through next summer

 


MR. EMMERT GOES TO WASHINGTON

  • NCAA President Mark Emmert went before Congress today in an ongoing effort to minimize the impact of name, image and likeness laws. Some states, like Florida, could have NIL laws take effect as soon as this summer. Here are four takeaways from today’s events on Capitol Hill:

    • The NCAA is asking for patience from lawmakers so its NIL committee can makes recommendations, which will be presented to the membership in January 2021. That timeline is firm.

    • The NCAA’s most popular talking point -- NIL laws without restrictions will create unfair recruiting advantages -- seems to forget that recruiting advantages already exist.

    • Emmert discussed how if student-athletes are given the freedom to sign endorsement deals and personal-service contracts, it would create competitive imbalance. Given that there are about six football teams each season that have a legitimate chance of winning the CFP Championship, it’s fair to say the train has left the station on that one, too.

    • My favorite quote of the day came from Sen. Jon Tester (R-Mont.): “You don’t want us to solve this. You want us to help you solve this. Time’s a clicking, we can’t stop the states from what they’re doing, and we’ve got to figure it out.”

 

 

 

SPEED READS 

  • ESPN was sure missing that Zion Williamson bump for the first Duke-North Carolina tip of the season. Per SBJ's Austin Karp, Duke's OT win on Saturday night averaged 2.67 million viewers, down sharply from 4.34 million for last year's first matchup on a Wednesday night. However, this year's game is up from 2.43 million viewers two years ago.

  • Oregon State AD Scott Barnes hits the three-year mark in Corvallis this week, and his mission to retool the football program is taking shape. While the team hasn't been to a bowl game since 2013, the school is moving forward with a plan to renovate Reser Stadium, which opened in 1953.
  • The Beanpot drew a record crowd of 17,850 to TD Garden for last night's final between Northeastern and Boston UnivThe Globe's Tara Sullivan captures what makes the tourney stand out in the college space: "It’s a uniquely Boston event with a long and storied history. ... The heart of this four-team clash is the same, handed down from graduating class to graduating class, through generations of players and fans alike."

  • UNC Charlotte today rewarded AD Mike Hill with a one-year extension that keeps him under contract through the 2024-25 school year. The 49ers are coming off their first-ever bowl game appearance under first-year football coach Will Healy. In just two years, Hill has hired a football, basketball and baseball coach.

  • Numbers from the Birmingham News reveal how the Nick Saban-era has built out Alabama's football recruiting empire. When adjusted for inflation. Bama's recruiting expenses have gone up 47% from $1.79 million in 2016 to $2.6 million last year. In 2009, that number was $893,805. Per Michael Casagrande, the recruiting expenses "speak to the importance" of Bama "stocking its cash-cow program."

 

 

 

------- Register now for the CAA World Congress of Sports -- March 25-26 -------

 

  • Hear from dynamic thought leaders, stakeholders, and dealmakers such as:

    • Rob Manfred, MLB Commissioner
    • Zion Armstrong, Adidas North America President
    • Don Garber, MLS Commissioner
    • Cynthia Marshall, Mavericks CEO
    • Anthony Noto, SoFi CEO
    • Molly Solomon, NBC Olympics Productions Executive Producer & President

  • Network with more than 700 of your peers on the Grand Lawn of the Monarch Beach Resort following day one. Be sure to join fellow attendees at the welcome reception on the evening of March 24. To register, go to www.WorldCongressofSports.com.

 

 

Enjoying this newsletter? We've got more! Check out SBJ Media with John Ourand on Mondays and Wednesdays for insights into all the latest news around the world of sports media. Also check out SBJ Football from Ben Fischer on Friday afternoons.

Something on the College beat catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to either me (msmith@sportsbusinessjournal.com) or Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it. Also contributing to this newsletter is Thomas Leary (tleary@sportsbusinessdaily.com).