Longtime ESPN executive and current Meadlowlark Media leader John Skipper went on The Dan Patrick Show Thursday and spent a healthy chunk of the segment praising the work of Charles Barkley.
Skipper also had plenty of positive things to say about the entire Inside the NBA crew and production, but it was Barkley he singled out as perhaps the most valuable person in sports media thanks to his ability to actually move the needle with viewers, comparing him to John Madden in that regard.
“I think there are only three or four people in the history of broadcasting that you can genuinely say people tune in to see them. The late, great John Madden, who just recently passed, was one of those guys. Barkley is the guy right now in all of sports that you can say people will tune in to see him.”
This is all a bit more opinion than fact, but in the light of Tom Brady signing an absurdly large deal to eventually join Fox Sports as both an on-air analyst and a brand ambassador, Obviously networks have different reasons than just attracting viewers for putting big piles of money in front of former players and other star analysts. For networks it can be as much about cachet as anything else, a way to put out either the best or most glamorous product possible.
Is Skipper right about Barkley? Maybe. He’s certainly on the short list of anyone in the business who has the power to draw viewers on his own. Whether anyone can even really do that today is another question, but there’s no denying Barkley’s skills and the appeal of Inside the NBA in general.
“It’s because they look like they’re having fun. They know what they’re talking about. They’re willing to be provocative, they’re willing to mash it up, and it’s great.”
Skipper’s certainly dead-on in his assessment there.