How Endeavor's Mark Shapiro Rewrote Sports Deals From ESPN to the UFC | The Deal

How Endeavor's Mark Shapiro Rewrote Sports Deals From ESPN to the UFC | The Deal

The Endeavor and UFC Deal

  • Mark Shapiro, president of Endeavor and TKO, discussed the audacious deal between WWE and UFC, two of the biggest brands in sports and entertainment.
  • The deal involved a pitch to Vince McMahon, the involvement of the merchant bank Raine, and the presentation of the Endeavor flywheel, showcasing UFC's success and potential for growth.
  • Dana White, president of UFC, was supportive of the deal and recognized the potential for growth and increased monetization.
  • The combination of UFC and WWE presents an opportunity to serve over a billion fans globally, with potential for a one-time mega event and a joint channel.

The Media Landscape and ESPN

  • The media landscape is disrupted, but sports content remains strong and valuable, especially live events.
  • Linear TV still has a significant reach and viewership, while streaming platforms require premium content for success.
  • ESPN+ has been a strong anchor tenant for ESPN+ due to its popularity and ability to attract subscribers.
  • ESPN faced challenges with declining ratings and pressure from cable providers to move to an a la carte model.
  • Disney invested heavily in lobbying efforts to prevent ESPN from going a la carte, fearing a significant loss in subscribers.

Mark Shapiro's Career at ESPN

  • Mark Shapiro's career journey at ESPN is highlighted, from starting as a production assistant to eventually running the entire content division.
  • Mentorship and support from executives played a crucial role in his success.
  • A key decision in his career was choosing to lead ESPN Classic, which allowed him to showcase his storytelling and leadership skills.
  • At 31 years old, Shapiro was brought in to run all programming for ESPN and launched successful shows like Pardon the Interruption.
  • Shapiro's extensive experience in sports media rights negotiations influenced his assessment of the $1.4 billion deal as a fair and advantageous opportunity for Disney.

Bob Iger's Leadership

  • Bob Iger, who later became CEO of Disney, is a charismatic and inspiring leader who takes chances and surrounds himself with talented individuals.
  • Iger supported ESPN's move into scripted programming, such as the successful show "Playmakers," and was personally involved in the process.
  • True leadership involves inspiring people and fostering loyalty, rather than merely commanding obedience.

The Future of Sports Media Rights

  • In the context of media rights for major sports, streaming services like ESPN+ will require a high subscription price to offset lost revenue from linear TV.
  • To justify the cost, streaming services must offer premium content that people are willing to pay for, which means cutting less popular sports and shows.
  • Sports with a long calendar, scheduling flexibility, and extensive library programming, such as UFC and WWE, are valuable assets for streaming services.

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