Skipper, the former ESPN chief, and Le Batard, once one of the Disney-backed company’s most popular hosts, are launching Meadowlark Media, an independent content company that will initially focus on sports, with an emphasis on individual creators. Skipper will remain an executive at DAZN Group, a company that has snapped up rights to stream boxing and mixed-martial fighting matches, among other contests.
The two join a crowded field of entrepreneurs trying to challenge traditional media giants on the sports-content field. The Ringer, a sports-and-entertainment focused outlet founded by former ESPN producer Bill Simmons, was purchased in November by Spotify. Meanwhile, other former ESPN content personnel — including top executives like Connor Schell and Libby Geist — have left the sports giant in recent weeks. Jemele Hill, a former ESPN on-air anchor, has launched several ventures since her departure.
ESPN and Le Batard parted ways late last year, part of what ESPN executives described as a “mutual” decision. “I’m thrilled to be back in business with Dan, one of the leading and most unique voices in sports media,” said Skipper, in a prepared statement. “We have a lot in the works, but the first order of business will be to find Dan a new home for his wildly popular audio programs.” Le Batard’s radio program, “The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz,” generated much attention, particularly when the host railed against his employer for not focusing on some of the political matters that have recently become part of the sports business.
“We hear the term ‘free agency’ a lot, but our fans, as loyal and rabid as any in sports, just gave us the freedom to exert the agency,” said Le Batard, in a statement. “John Skipper is a visionary, an industry leader and also the most powerful person in sports across the decade when our show rocketed to national acclaim. I can’t wait to see what he builds, and what we build together.”
Access Industries, a privately held investment group founded by Len Blavatnik, is a backer of the new venture. Meadowlark will begin to announce additional information in the coming weeks and months ,the company said.