Inside ESPN’s $250M storm that ended with Schefter, Woj

In a media world increasingly fragmented by new challenges, ESPN still reigns supreme. While no longer known by the nickname “The Worldwide Leader in Sports”, it continues to use its financial power to be at the forefront, be it the best games or the top information.

The deals for NFL insider Adam Schefter and NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski are the latest example, as each of the newsbreakers will have five-year contracts and ESPN spend totals more than $80 million with a chance for each of earning them more, The Post has learned.

Schefter will make around $9 million a year, according to sources, while Wojnarowski will make in the $7 million a year range with ESPN. The discrepancy between the two stems from Schefter’s longer streak at ESPN, a higher salary that’s being negotiated, and the power of the NFL.

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro, a die-hard Yankees fan, continues to pose like George Steinbrenner for his celebrities and the free agents he wants. This Schefter-Wojnarowski effort follows Pitaro and ESPN, who sent out shockwaves not only in the media but in esports in general when they lured Fox Sports’ Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for a total of $165 million over five years to ” Monday” to call night football.” That was $90 million for Aikman and just $75 million for Buck.

ESPN just spent around $250,000,000 on four sports media personalities. A quarter billion! So what does ESPN do?

ESPN is trying to fend off the emerging platforms, the other big networks, and the digital entities in an increasingly crowded space. There’s an argument against overstating the money spent – it’s deliciously ridiculous – but if you’ve got the cash, why not shop at the top of the market? You know, be “the world leader in sports.”

ESPN deployed a two-pronged attack. Over the past two years or more, Pitaro and his top negotiating rights lieutenant Burke Magnus spent more than $40 billion in new rights fees to keep the NFL and MLB, among others, while they like real estate in 2024 and 2024 the SEC added NHL this year.

Adam Schefter ESPN
Adam Scherter
Diamond Pictures/Getty Pictures

In doing so, they added other top NFL games, two Super Bowls, annual first-round MLB playoffs, four Stanley Cup Finals, and college football’s most successful conference to accompany all of the prestige events they already own, like the NBA Finals and the College Football Championship.

Most deals head into the next decade creating a moat that the new players like Amazon and possibly Apple with their endless cash cannot fully penetrate. These live sports offerings also give ESPN the flexibility to go direct to consumers with its top games while staying in the cable bundle.

As ESPN moves into the future and has spent billions upon billions on the games, it also wants to own the top insiders. Along with Schefter and Wojnarowski, it held MLB insider Jeff Passan for four years and a total of $4 million. It also added Pete Thamel to collegiate sports. (Wojnarowski, Passan, and Thamel all came from Yahoo Sports, which Pitaro once managed.)

The incredible increase in salaries for top sports reporters and personalities is due in large part to the combination of fun money influx, social media and the new streaming services. Pat McAfee has been awarded a $30 million-a-year contract by FanDuel because his style and personality is the perfect cross section of these up-and-coming alleys.

For Schefter and Wojnarowski, the idea of ​​merging one of the big sports gambling companies like FanDuel, DraftKings or any of the Vegas-based companies with a TV partner gave them potential advantages over ESPN. You could both probably have an eight figure base from a gambling establishment and then combine it with a personal time network for a lot less.

For the gambling companies, it’s just marketing. If they signed Schefter or Wojnarowski, for example, ESPN would be forced to write their company reports on the balance sheet incessantly. You would have access to her 10+ million followers on social media. And, oh, someone still could.

Adrian Wojnarowski
NBAE via Getty Images

ESPN has recognized the threat posed by gaming companies to its top talent, and for those it really wants to keep, Pitaro could turn them on.

ESPN has been reviewing its own deal with a gaming company for months and months. It could be worth billions.

As part of Schefter’s deal, he kept his gaming and podcast rights with the idea that it will be with an ESPN affiliate. Wojnarowski’s pod remains under ESPN’s umbrella, and while he hasn’t addressed any of it, he could have the same options as Schefter when it comes into play. Although both are represented by the same agency, CAA, the two were never a package deal.

Their contracts, particularly Schefter’s, could eventually end up in the $10 million+ range. The potential new deals will likely be within the ESPN family. ESPN has the right to keep Schefter’s podcast if it wants. He gets his cake and there might be more to eat.

Pitaro tries to build a moat. Just like with its cable fees, ESPN is trying to use its financial power to stay ahead of the pack as sports media ventures into a new world between gaming, social media and streaming. These offers are talent friendly as it is a new world with new competition.

ESPN no longer calls themselves “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” but it’s the title they’re aiming for. Inside ESPN’s $250M storm that ended with Schefter, Woj


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