Politics and the art of broadcast consolidation

81Dog emailed me about this Wall Street Journal article, provocatively titled “How a weakened ESPN became consumed by politics”.  It begins with this:

John Skipper was furious.

One of his star anchors, Jemele Hill, had sent a tweet calling President Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” Mr. Trump’s supporters called for her to be fired. Prominent black athletes defended the anchor, who is African-American.

Sitting in his office last September, Mr. Skipper, then ESPN’s president, lit into Ms. Hill, according to people familiar with the meeting. If I punish you, he told her, I’d open us up to protests and come off as racist. If I do nothing, that will fuel a narrative among conservatives—and a faction within ESPN—that the network had become too liberal.

Mr. Skipper chose to spare Ms. Hill. Mr. Trump weighed in on Twitter: “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers.”

The president’s tweet was hyperbolic, but it tapped into real anxiety at ESPN. What was the way forward for a company shaken to its foundations by the cord-cutting revolution?

Ooh, Mickey’s doomed!  Is there anything Disney can do?

Before some of you snowflakes get too carried away with the narrative here, it’s worth remembering that the WSJ is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who’s not exactly anti-politics himself.  Murdoch, I doubt you need to be reminded, owns Fox.  And Fox just so happens to be a significant competitor in the sports broadcasting world to ESPN.  Let Andy Staples give you an example of that:

This all seems to suggest that broadcast networks NBC, CBS and Fox may be even more interested in college sports than they already were. Meanwhile, ESPN will continue to attempt to dominate the sport. (And games purchased by ESPN are actually being purchased by Disney, which also runs games on ABC using ESPN personnel and branding.) The Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC could use their own cable networks as leverage as well by threatening to put the best games on those networks and demanding a higher subscription fee. (The ACC, which will launch its own network next year, won’t have this option because all its rights are owned by Disney/ESPN until 2036.) If even one streaming service such as Amazon Prime or YouTube Red decided to jump into the fray, the bidding could be frenzied. Dean Jordan, who has helped the ACC launch its channel with ESPN and who has worked with the Big Ten and College Football Playoff on media rights deals, believes the competition for rights could be fairly diverse in the next round.

I only see one entity referred to there as dominating.  As the Journal piece grudgingly admits about the WWL, “They have some enormous challenges but they have by far the best brand in sports…”  So what’s a little snotty political questioning between two rivals?

It’s even better than that.  The Murdoch empire is looking to sell a piece of Fox Sports and the front-runner for the purchase is Comcast.  However, there is another interested party.  Who might that be?  You guessed it.

The alternative to a Comcast/Fox deal is Disney buying the Fox properties, which would also boost the size of a TV sports empire by joining Fox’s sports properties with Disney’s national sports channels. The Disney-owned ESPN and ABC have TV contracts for the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, various soccer leagues, and other sports.

ESPN and the Fox regional sports networks “together would account for 30 percent of all affiliate fees for basic cable networks and RSNs and a massive 58 percent of affiliate fees for basic cable sports networks and RSNs,” S&P Global Market Intelligence said in a recent report that Comcast pointed out to Ars.

Either way, a Fox deal would produce a bigger programming giant that could demand higher fees from cable and satellite TV providers that buy access to sports channels.

Wrinkles, wrinkles everywhere.

The only politics any of these assholes are consumed with are the ones that make them the most money.  Buy into the nonsense narratives pushed by the likes of Clay Travis if you want, but realize you’re being played.

101 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Political Wankery

101 responses to “Politics and the art of broadcast consolidation

  1. Gaskilldawg

    Thank you.

    Like

  2. ASEF

    Sucker born every minute.

    No industry is more sensitive to consumer metrics than broadcast. Bad 2 months? Find your stuff in a box on the sidewalk by the door; hey, they changed the access code.

    The agenda is always ad rates, which means always eyeballs.

    Like

  3. Mayor

    Where is the Department of Justice Anti-trust Division when you need them?

    Like

  4. 81Dog

    Sports programming is just a bridge for ads to the suits like Skipper. If it makes more money, they want more of it. If it costs them money, they want less.

    The thrust of the article was that ESPN is losing subscribers and cash for a variety of reasons, not just the woke politics (although that seemed to b e one of many factors), but maybe I read it wrong. ☺️

    Like

  5. Hogbody Spradlin

    Blutarsky, would you post a flow chart of all those alternatives. My head is swimming.

    Like

  6. CPark58

    A little off topic and not the same ballgame but you have to appreciate The Masters. There is no telling what that bidding war for coverage rights would look like but yet Augusta National purposefully under value themselves to retain control and their brand.

    Like

    • And they like it that way. I have to give it to them. They understand their brand becomes more valuable over time because they haven’t monetized everything they can.

      Regarding the TV rights, the club values the relationship with CBS, and it goes both ways. They could extract a ton more money from CBS and ESPN if they wanted, but they like the limited commercial interruption and the ability to control what’s shown. No trailers for upcoming CBS shows … no ED therapy commercials … no ads for every equipment company.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Russ

      And that’s why it is the best sporting event I’ve ever been to, bar none.

      Like

      • CPark58

        Yep. I wish Billy Payne would take the AD job at UGA. Augusta National seems to value their fans and take responsibility in providing a premium experience, not just the VIPs you know are in attendance. The lines are always long but move quickly, the food is awesome but reasonably priced, trashcans are never overflowing, and the staff is always friendly and helpful. I know a football game is different animal from a golf tournament but you can’t tell me they couldn’t apply some of the same practices if they just gave a damn. I’d be willing to bet that if they did there wouldn’t be as much bitching over ticket increases.

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        • Sanford222view

          Billy is likely at the age where he doesn’t want an AD job at this point. He is in his mid-seventies. I do think he would make a good one though and agree with your overall point.

          Like

  7. Net Result – they’ll kill the golden goose

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  8. How does the old adage go? If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em!

    Or something like that.

    Like

  9. I still maintain ESPNs loss of subscribers is 95% due to the changing market and the losses based on people being mad at the perception of ESPN being a liberal network is at the margins. Yet carnival barkers like Clay Travis have made it their life’s work to push the narrative that the 95-5 breakdown is more like 50-50.

    Like

  10. Faulkner

    A handful of companies control everything we consume via news, print and TV. That needs to change.

    Like

  11. Ellis

    I don’t think the Murdoch/WSJ/Fox conspiracy theory holds. The thing is I and my kids can watch Fox Sports and get sports without the political commentary.

    Just show me highlights and tell me who won. I could care less what a sports reporter’s opinion, and certainly what an athlete’s opinion, of some social issue is.

    If it is all about money, why a company like ESPN would allow its on air personnel to offend half of its viewers is beyond me and some other 16 million ex-subscribers.

    Like

    • ChiliDawg

      “offend half it’s viewers.”

      Listen, snowflake. You aren’t “half” of people. Butthurt little snowflakes like you are an insignificant minority that makes a lot of noise. Ironically you’re also the people who groan about “political correctness” and bemoan a time when we didn’t worry about offending people. Yet here you are, bitching about the fact that you were traumatized by someone giving their opinion which you didn’t like.

      Come off your fucking cross.

      Like

      • Sanford222view

        Lighten up, Francis.

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        • Spur 21

          Wow Sanford that is a significant leap. I stopped watching “SPORTS TALKINGHEADS” for the very reason Ellis mentioned. I used to watch ESPN to get SPORTS NEWS once they started allowing an agenda unrelated to sports switch I switched.

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      • JS

        Good lord he’s not saying he’s traumatized, or calling for some boycott of ESPN. He’s just saying he doesn’t like how ESPN presents its content, so he watches something else.

        Most of us who complain about political correctness and people constantly being offended aren’t actually telling those people how to feel – just saying make your own choices, don’t try to force your choices on everyon else. The issue with “snow flakes” isn’t so much that they are offended by something, but that they want to ban whatever offends them.

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        • ChiliDawg

          Like kneeling during the national anthem?

          He’s literally saying he’s cut his cable because he’s so offended by differing opinions on ESPN. You’re projecting your own opinions onto him. That isn’t what he’s saying.

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          • Ellis

            I never said I cut my cable. If you ask someone to read the article you will learn that over 16 million people have dropped espn. Just stop, you are embarrassing yourself now.

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          • JS

            Can’t tell if you’re a troll or just truly a dumb a**hole.

            Like

      • Ellis

        I’d call you an idiot but that is already well established. We are pretty much split 50/50 as a country on many social issues. So if a personality picks one side of an issue they are going to offend roughly 50% of the population. I know math is hard. Now, have someone read your post to you and tell me who is a “butthurt little snowflake”.

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        • ChiliDawg

          I know this is hard for you – but most people are not offended when someone has an opinion that differs form them. The percentage that you fall into that gets offended by that, is very small, but is currently what drives the right wing politics which is why we’re as fucked up as we are. The right wing is controlled by sensitive bitches whose only concern is preserving their echo chamber.

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          • ChiliDawg

            And it isn’t even close to 50/50, but I get that you probably believe that based on the alternate universe you live in.

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          • Ellis

            You know I am laughing at you, not with you, right? I personally find your lack of intellect, limited use of words out side of foul language,and an inability to do anything other than name call to be humorous in the same way watching a monkey play with a football at the zoo makes people laugh.

            Let me be crystal clear, I am in no way offended by your idiocy. I don’t even think you could present an argument in a sensible manner that would convince me to agree with your uneducated point of view even if you tried. Now that you have revealed yourself as some fringe left bigot it makes perfect sense to me why you struggle with people who disagree with your point of view. Life must really be awful for you right now and for that I have some pity for you.

            Have a nice weekend.

            Like

            • ChiliDawg

              You seem to think this is about you and I agreeing. I don’t care if you agree with me. I don’t even have an interest in trying to get you to agree with me. I just want you and everyone else like you to stop trying to insulate yourself (and your kids) from opinions you don’t like. The polarization of America is not due to a “50/50 split on social issues,” it’s due to the increasing trend of thinking we should have safe spaces where we don’t have to hear or see things we disagree with. Your “right to not be offended.” As a simple idea, leaving you off to yourself to put your head in the sand and believe what you want is fine, but as a subset of culture people like you are increasing in number, and it has warped politics and media into creating these bubbles that you live in where your biases are fed back to you to an extent that you come to believe more people agree with you than really do.

              I will admit, my frustration over this is more broadly focused and less on you individually, and so my response was over the top, and for that I apologize. But my point still stands – people like you do not represent a significant minority, which is why ESPN is not worried about losing you over your aversion to hearing opinions you don’t like.

              Like

              • Ellis

                I am not offended by other people having or sharing an opinion. I am not the one arguing that people have a “right to not be offended”, just the opposite. If someone is pushing an opinion that I do not agree with, particularly on a sports program, I simply choose not to watch. I am not boycotting anything or protesting or demanding that everyone must accept my opinion.

                I agree with your statement as to polarization in America is a legitimate issue. But I don’t have to be “tolerant” to the point that I have to change my values. To call someone else intolerant for disagreeing is the essence of intolerance.

                My entire point about this article is from a purely business standpoint. Espn needs as large an audience as it can get. People watch espn for sports and alienating large groups of people by interjecting politics is not a sound business model. Espn’s financials and its efforts to change support that argument.

                Like

                • ChiliDawg

                  But isn’t “choosing not to watch” when someone is expressing an opinion you disagree with the same thing as plugging your ears to avoid hearing the other side of an argument? There’s a fine line between being firm in your beliefs and not letting them be challenged.

                  As to your point about the business standpoint – as I said in a post further down below, sports has always been political, and I think you overestimate the size of the group of people who will not watch because of opinions they don’t like. There’s more to suggest that shifts are due to changing ways which people get their entertainment delivered than any resistance to political commentary.

                  Like

                  • Ellis

                    “But isn’t “choosing not to watch” when someone is expressing an opinion you disagree with the same thing as plugging your ears to avoid hearing the other side of an argument?”

                    No. I’ve heard the other side of the argument and am not persuaded.

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                    • ChiliDawg

                      Like

                  • This is a sincere question, Chili. Do yo watch Hannity and Tucker Carlson? If not, is it because what they say offends you? I think you will say that you don’t watch because what they say has no value. But that is just semantics. So, how are you different from Ellis? By the way, I don’t watch Hannity and Tucher either.

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              • Napoleon BonerFart

                So, in your estimation, was the NFL’s recent decision not to allow players to kneel during the national anthem because a small percentage of people weren’t hurting their bottom line?

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      • Napoleon BonerFart

        Let me guess. You can’t believe Trump won because you don’t know anyone who voted for him? Cross indeed.

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    • Ellis, question for you — I get that you’re offended, but are you so offended you’ve cut your cable service over it?

      Like

      • Ellis

        I have not, but the article states 16 million espn viewers have. I simply choose not to watch it unless I am watching a sporting event. The point is not about me, I don’t care what business you are in, it doesn’t make sense to alienate a large swath of your target market. The article linked makes clear that the the parent company and espn’s new management is trying to fix the business model.

        Like

    • DawgPhan

      The real question is why ESPN or any company cares about upsetting bigots and trumpers. They have nearly no buying power in the market and nearly all brands would prefer to not be associated with them.

      Name a national brand that makes it a point to show their support for trump?

      And if the NFL is attracting more then their fare share of bigots, they should ask themselves why that is.

      Like

  12. Junkyardawg41

    I read this article yesterday and I thought the politics part was an interesting perspective but only one piece of the problem. Early ESPN was live programming and highlights. The advent of high speed Internet reduced the highlight business model because consumers could find the highlights they wanted to see instantaneously. ESPN countered that with shows which were more than highlights and became commentary. Other sources provided the same so they continuously changed their programming to the pile it is today.
    The current gorilla in the room is the outdated thinking that there will continue to be outsized bidding on live events. College attendance at games continues to decline for a multitude of reasons and I wonder where the viewership will also start to decline. If the students are no longer going to the games, have they lost interest in the sport.

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    • Maybe, but until viewership of live sports is no longer coin of the realm with advertisers, I doubt things change that much in terms of valuing broadcast rights.

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      • junkyardawg41

        I totally agree with that. I am just wondering out loud at what point in time advertisers realize the cost to advertise is not worth the expense and what the landscape will look like then.

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  13. PTC DAWG

    I prefer my sports without politics…not sure why anyone would want it any other way. Sports are an escape from real life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I prefer my sports without politics I disagree with.

      FIFY

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      • PTC DAWG

        I was being dead serious…

        Like

      • Sanford222view

        Are you saying this because you don’t think this can be true or because you feel that is how it is specifically for PTC Dawg?

        I prefer not to have politics in my sports either. I would consider myself a moderate conservative. Fiscally conservative while leaning much more towards the middle on social issues and I don’t turn on sports to consume politics. I am tired of the kneeling during the anthem issue but do feel the players have the right to peacefully protest and don’t take it to mean they are disrespecting the military. I think that the far right created that message as an easy way to reject the protests. I do feel those protesting should be using other highly visible means to forward their cause in addition to kneeling but the kneeling isn’t going to cause me to stop watching a sporting event I am interested in viewing. I don’t have a problem with the protest but still prefer to consume that topic outside the entertainment realm of sports.

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        • Are you saying this because you don’t think this can be true or because you feel that is how it is specifically for PTC Dawg?

          I find it true of those who yell the loudest, from either the left or the right.

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        • Cojones

          Sanford, where else should they consider their protest when this ultimate protest method puts their work and lives in jeopardy by protesting what is affecting an entire cultural and social group of Americans? That a POTUS should use his power of warped racist patriotism against a group of athletes that most of us admire should be abhorrent to us all.

          I certainly hope that the owner who has stated that he will pay the fines of those with the courage to kneel starts the pushback that will call to question whether we wish to watch this gladiator sport (that has now fully entered the Plantation mode) any longer.

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          • ChiliDawg

            How can you call yourself conservative and not be more outraged over POTUS’ rallying his minions into bullying a private corporation into suppressing free speech than you are over private individuals trying to bring attention to injustice?

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            • Ellis

              “bullying a private corporation into suppressing free speech”

              So obviously, you are definitely not a lawyer. Is Chilidawg a name you earned working at the Varsity?

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              • Derek

                THE representative of the government is encouraging a company to dissuade political speech. That’s at a minimum in contradiction of the spirit of the first amendment. I get that there’s no direct violation.

                As much as I disagree with how Colin raised this, I’m more concerned that you have a company that feels it “owns” it’s employees to the point it can tell them what they can or can’t express politically.

                If Tom Brady on his off day went to a code pink rally and burned a flag should he be fired?

                I get that no team may want to extend a contract. You certainly have the right not to deal with the financially radioactive. I understand why Colin is unemployed.. But to say: “you’re fired” over it isn’t right. It’s a subtle but important difference.

                Would you want your employer policing your political speech? I know I wouldn’t.

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                • Ellis

                  “If Tom Brady on his off day went to a code pink rally and burned a flag should he be fired?”

                  Of course not. Would his employer allow him to do that while he is working in their office? See the difference?

                  Like

                  • ChiliDawg

                    Your employer cannot force you to worship any other idol, why is this different?

                    Like

                  • So pregame is “working?” Maybe they should renegotiate their contracts.

                    If you think observing the Pledge is “labor” then I wonder whose being unpatriotic here?

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                    • ChiliDawg

                      The worst part of the new NFL policy is that it renders the anthem meaningless, more so than it was before. Every one on the field will be standing because they are required to by their employer – not because of patriotism or national pride.

                      I’m sure the founders would have been proud to know that two and a half centuries later, “freedom” would be compulsory participation in displays of nationalism.

                      Like

                    • Ellis

                      Of course pregame is working. I don’t run the NFL, but the rules are its to make and if someone doesn’t like it they can go work somewhere else. Nobody is forcing any player to work for the NFL and as a business when it is losing customers and billions of dollars in advertising revenues it is obligated to address the issues that are harming its business.

                      Whatever your views of the flag, the anthem, the pledge, the military, kneelers, or anything else is irrelevant. Chilidawg makes a point below that compulsory participation is meaningless, and he is right. But you know who disagrees? The customers who provide revenue to the NFL.

                      Like

                    • So is the post-game prayer part of the “job” of a college football player? If Trump said, “what about those guys who go to the locker room and don’t kneel and pray? Coaches should kick their asses off the team!” what would be your response?

                      More like “some” customers. Ultimately the fault for the controversy lies in Colin for doing this wrong and a politician who thrives on division and hostility and fear.

                      Like

                    • ChiliDawg

                      You keep acting like this is all private business despite the fact that we are only here because POTUS said “fire that son of a bitch” about Kaepernick, which led to him losing his job and being blacklisted by the NFL, which opened the floodgates to more players kneeling out of solidarity, which led us to this rule. If Trump never utters a word, we aren’t talking about this today, and the NFL isn’t writing policies to force displays of nationalism. I don’t see how you can deny the direct involvement of Trump. He’s a populist that rises and falls on the anger of the mob that he leads. And Kaepernick was an easy target.

                      Like

                    • Ellis

                      C’mon. President Trump? Kapernick made his own bed long before Trump uttered a word and grabbed onto popular sentiment. Kap was a third string qb on the downward side of his career with a $100 million contract and chose to complain about being oppressed. Speech has consequences and despite his lack of worth as a player nobody is going to want to bring a guy onto their team that fans hate.

                      Like

                    • Ellis

                      “So is the post-game prayer part of the “job” of a college football player? If Trump said, “what about those guys who go to the locker room and don’t kneel and pray? Coaches should kick their asses off the team!” what would be your response”

                      Totally incoherent. I have no idea what you are trying to express. Prayer? College football? Trump? Whiskey tango foxtrot.

                      Like

                    • Derek

                      Of course you don’t. You’re either dodging, illiterate or a moral coward/hypocrite.

                      But on the off chance you’re just stupid/slow I’ll put a finer point on it.

                      You are aware that there is such a thing as post game prayer right?

                      That’s a tradition not really any different than the pledge right?

                      Dozens of players from both teams participate right?

                      Dozens opt out and go to the locker room right?

                      What if trump took offense to those who opt out and suggested that college coaches should cut players who don’t participate?

                      “You see these kids not praying after the game? Don’t you want a coach to just say: you’re cut you son-of-a-bitch because Jesus!” A throng of idiots, like yourself cheer because he’s standing up for Christian values right?

                      Are you now capable of the expression of any thought on the subject idiot?

                      Like

                    • Napoleon BonerFart

                      You’ve got your time line off here. Kaepernick became a free agent in March, 2017. No team hired him. Trump tweeted that players who kneel should be fired in September, 2017. Maybe NFL teams just aren’t interested in a mediocre QB who runs away fans, no matter who is President.

                      Like

                    • Napoleon BonerFart

                      Like

          • Sanford222view

            I wasn’t saying they shouldn’t protest at games. I just meant other highly visible actions should be taken in addition to the protests. I think the way they chose to protest was a good choice. Highly visible and peaceful.

            I also agree with your comment regarding the current POTUS.

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      • Spur 21

        That is total BS. I prefer my sports WITHOUT politics – regardless of which side is being pushed. Like others have said sports = escape from the crap. Injecting political or social issues isn’t the point of sports or sports reporting.

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        • Total BS? As in every human being on the planet shares your viewpoint? Don’t be absurd.

          Politics have been a part of sports in the modern world since the 1936 Olympics. And I haven’t noticed much of a drop in our enthusiasm since.

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    • All sports is politics … name one and I can find 1, 2, 3 – 50+ political issues associated with the sport. They have been intertwined since money, institutions, associations, governments, religion and for profit entities like broadcasters, sponsors, etc got involved.

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      • ChiliDawg

        ^ THIS. Sports has been political since we first had organized sport in this country. You can go back to the early days of baseball in the late 19th century and owners were making political decisions regarding black people playing ball.

        The problem is people want to live in their own echo chamber. Anything that challenges their worldview is to be discarded. Outrage over kneeling never had anything to do with “disrespecting the flag,” it was always outrage over bringing attention to a problem that those people would rather pretend doesn’t exist. And that’s exactly why the protests are necessary, now more than ever.

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        • Sanford222view

          “Outrage over kneeling never had anything to do with “disrespecting the flag,” it was always outrage over bringing attention to a problem that those people would rather pretend doesn’t exist. And that’s exactly why the protests are necessary, now more than ever.”

          Completely agree.

          Like

  14. Comin' Down The Track

    The alternative to a Comcast/Fox deal is Disney buying the Fox properties, which would also boost the size of a TV sports empire by joining Fox’s sports properties with Disney’s national sports channels.
    I think I can hear Ted Turner giggling.

    Like

    • Argondawg

      That is because we are living in a competency hierarchy. Bigger brains are in much greater demand and creating a large part of the income inequality . It’s destabilizing but what are you gonna do?

      Like

  15. Debby Balcer

    We are a nation of people looking to be offended and fight whatever happened to live and let live. The rich get richer and the rest of us are loosing ground.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. doofusdawg

    The elephant in the room is when someone like Netflix or Amazon tries to buy espn for a ridiculous amount of money. The anti trust implications are way above my pay grade. Great article Senator. Clearly the fundamental link between sports and politics and ripe for graft and corruption.

    Just wait till they start using algorithms in our remotes.

    Like

  17. NYC_Dawg

    Long time reader, first time commenter. For those of you that want an in-depth explanation of what is happening in the media industry (broader than just sports), take a look at this blog post:

    https://stratechery.com/2017/the-great-unbundling/

    Like

    • Nice summary of what is happening and why. Thanks. I am probably one of the few people who don’t do Facebook. When my wife shows me stuff on Facebook it seems to be mostly a lot of ” look at me” bragging. But what the hell, if people enjoy it, it’s fine with me. Just so I can watch Ga football and read GTP, what more could I want?

      Like

  18. Argondawg

    I fully expected over 100 comments people. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Hogbody Spradlin

    This thread went to about DEFCON 3. Nothing major.

    Like

  20. Bulldog Joe

    Well, we already knew you can’t consolidate porn videos in Athens.

    http://www.onlineathens.com/sports/20180525/uga-player-arrested-for-felony-eavesdropping

    Like

  21. 92 grad

    Elevator music. It exists for everyone to hear, no one to listen to it. Carefully engineered to be ignored, and yet it saturates our environment. Business as usual with media. At least we’re not taking it quietly.

    Like