Former ESPN President Sees Value In Making Super Bowl Pay-Per-View Events

What if to watch the Super Bowl, you had to pay for it? It’s an idea that’ll upset most NFL fans but former ESPN executive John Skipper sees the potential for the big game to make big money.

Skipper, who served as ESPN’s President from 2012 to 2017, joined The Big Suey Podcast on Dan Le Batard’s podcast platform to argue why viewers should have to pay extra to watch the Super Bowl. Here’s what he said as transcribed by Awful Announcing’s Sean Keeley.

“If half the country is watching your game and they’re watching it for free, how many of those people would pay a big sum of money to watch the game?” Skipper said.

Super Bowl 57 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles posted monster number, 113 million tuning in to see the Chiefs comeback and beat the Eagles 38-35. That’s up 1% from a year ago and the third-most watched Super Bowl ever only trailing 2017 between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons and 2015 between the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, according to Variety.

Even the lead-up to the game scored big. FOX’s pregame show was an all-day event, at what point hilariously announcing the Super Bowl was “coming up next” at 1 PM when kickoff was more than five hours away. Per FOX’s Michael Mulvihill, the pregame show began with 3.7 million viewers and wrapped up with over 90 million. An obvious trend of fans tuning in for the game as it neared kickoff but massive eyeballs no other actual game would receive.

To be clear, Skipper isn’t reporting or suggesting the NFL plans to make the Super Bowl a Pay-Per-View event. And as a former executive who views everything through a business and revenue lens, his comments aren’t all that surprising. Skipper is a hammer who views everything as a nail. That’s how you get to run ESPN for several years.

Clearly, this wouldn’t be a suggestion fans would love. Paying extra to watch a game like that would be costly with Skipper suggesting he’d charge $200-250 to tune in, generating billions of dollars on the other side. That number could at least get the NFL listening in their never-ending quest to make more money.

“That is the single best way I can think of for the NFL to increase their annual revenue take for their clubs, is to make the Super Bowl a Pay-Per-View event,” Skipper said.

Charging for the event would exclude many households who couldn’t afford it or wouldn’t want to pay through the nose for a couple hours of television. Imagine fans whose team is in the game unable to watch because they can’t drop a couple hundred dollars to watch a Super Bowl. So the odds of Skipper’s suggestion ever coming true is unlikely to happen, at least not anytime soon.

But if Skipper is talking about it, you have to believe the NFL has at least thought of it. And a decade from now, perhaps under a new commissioner (Roger Goodell is 63), the model could shift. The entertainment world is full of expenses. Upcharges and microtransactions and nickeling and diming at every opportunity. The Super Bowl is already a giant cash grab. It’s not unthinkable the NFL takes that to its logical conclusion.

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