The Meadowlark partners signaled their ambition to cast a wide lens on sports, entertainment and culture by revealing that former ESPN personality Jemele Hill and “The Good Place” creator Michael Schur would serve as creative advisers for the company. Skipper, who serves as CEO, also confirmed that the venture has raised $12.6 million in private funding to build up its content pipeline.
“You get the sense when you talk to them that their cup runneth over,” Schur tells Variety of Meadowlark’s plans. “We’re in this kind of weird new world where there’s dozens and dozens of companies and outlets and production houses that are making content in a bunch of different ways.”
Early announcements include a new podcast from Hank Azaria, who will reprise his sportscaster character Jim Brockmire, as well as potential projects with director Adam McKay.
Schur, one of TV’s top showrunners, says he got to know Le Batard after writing a piece about the host’s show for Slate a few years ago. When Le Batard and Skipper started drawing up plans for Meadowlark, they reached out to Schur, also co-creator and executive producer of “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” knowing his passion for sports in addition to entertainment.
“I believe in [Le Batard] and I believe in the people that he works with. They have important voices that should be heard,” Schur says. “The way they talk about the intersection of sports and race and politics is smart and nuanced and interesting, and so the chance to pitch in and help them in any way I can — it was sort of a no-brainer for me.”
Schur’s deal with Universal will prevent him from doing TV projects for Meadowlark, but there may be other, multimedia ways for him to participate and explore creative avenues with the company. Among the arenas that Schur says Skipper and Le Batard aim to tackle are longer-form projects, documentaries, podcasting and investigative journalism.
“I’m interested in all the things they’re interested in,” he says. “I’m interested in sports; I’m interested in politics; I’m interested in race. I’m interested in the changing media landscape. Dan always got in trouble at ESPN when he would talk about dicey subjects. [But] what we saw in especially the last four or five years, for obvious reasons, is that you cannot separate sports and politics. It’s impossible.
“How do you do that when LeBron James is wearing a sweatshirt that says ‘I Can’t Breathe’ onto the court before a game? How do you do that when Colin Kaepernick kneeling is the biggest story in the country and by the way, the President of the United States is talking all the time about Colin Kaepernick and the NFL? And when the Vice President goes to a football game, intentionally, for a photo op of him leaving while the players kneel. The idea that you can separate sports and politics and race and culture into these neat little categories is absurd So now they’re allowed to, and they’re going to, and I think that’s really exciting.”
Schur says the Meadowlark team has already brought up several kinds of projects and subject areas it wanted to cover in different media. “I can’t say anything at this point about anything specific, but I can tell you that the sorts of things that Dan and John Skipper have been talking about were thrilling and exciting to think about,” Schur says. “They’re in this place where they’re been in a self-proclaimed pirate ship for the last few months, sailing around and living off the grid, creatively, and I think it’s exciting to imagine them pulling into port, and then being able to sort of unleash all of these different ideas that they have on to the world.