The Disney-owned sports programmer cut the deal with Barstool Sports, the digital-media firm majority-owned by the Chernin Group, to create “Barstool Van Talk.” The interview/comedy show will be hosted by Barstool’s Dan “Big Cat” Katz and PFT Commenter and produced by Henry Lockwood (aka “Henry Ease”) — the three behind “Pardon My Take” — along with Embassy Row.
The deal comes after ESPN last year sent Barstool a cease-and-desist letter over “Pardon My Take,” insisting its logo and name were too similar to ESPN’s own “Pardon the Interruption” and “First Take” shows.
“Barstool Van Talk” will premiere on Oct. 17 and will air weekly on Tuesday nights at 1 a.m. ET/10 p.m. PT on ESPN2. In addition, ESPN will distribute content from the show across digital and social platforms including ESPN.com, the ESPN app, ESPN’s YouTube channel, and its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Immediately after the ESPN deal was announced Friday, Barstool Sports readers accused the company of selling out, given that Barstool has repeatedly antagonized ESPN and accused the network of lying.
In a video responding to critics, founder Dave “El Presidente” Portnoy cited specific ESPN talent that he still dislikes — but admitted his motivations were to make money and to make Barstool Sports as big as possible. “When have I ever said I don’t want to sell out?… I want to make a boatload of money,” he said. “ESPN, say what you want, big network — they’re going to see our best talent.”
“Barstool Van Talk” is set in Vanny Woodhead (pictured above), the 1993 conversion van that plays a central role “Pardon My Take.” Segments will include original digital shorts, guest interviews and comedy sketches, as well as the trio’s “exit interview” taped in the back of the van.
Barstool Sports launched “Pardon My Take” in March 2016, now on its 250th episode. The company will continue to release the podcast three times a week on its platform.
For Barstool, the ESPN pact is the biggest media deal to date. The digital-media outfit also has produced shows for Snapchat, Facebook, and SiriusXM, as well as a special for Comedy Central.
Chernin Group in January 2016 acquired a 51% stake in Barstool Sports and the company subsequently relocated from Boston to New York. Since arriving in the Big Apple, Barstool’s staff has increased from 15 to 80 employees, according to Portnoy. Last year, Barstool hired Erika Nardini, former chief marketing officer at AOL, as CEO.
In a controversy that flared up this week, Fox Sports college-football host Elika Sadeghi tweeted a portion of an employment agreement (redacting the company name but it was confirmed to be Barstool Sports) that requires staffers to affirm they will not object to “offensive speech,” including conduct and speech that “openly and explicitly relates to sex, as well as race, sexual orientation, gender, national origin, religion, disability and age.” Sadeghi said she was offered a two-year deal but she turned it down because she didn’t want to sign the contract.
Nardini responded on Twitter, writing that “Barstool creates really unique comedy and the nature of that comedy means that we can sometimes easily offend,” and that the contract “is signed by every single employee at Barstool Sports to ensure they are comfortable.”
Portnoy also issued a response on Twitter, with the comment, “It’s sad when people who crave attention insert themselves in important stories just to make it about themselves.” He was alluding to Sadeghi’s explanation that she posted the contract because “recent events have made me realize how important it can be” (clearly referring to the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment and assault scandal). “We’re not Harvey Weinstein,” Portnoy said, claiming that Barstool Sports has never had issues with sexual-harassment allegations from employees.