Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil

Bowling for dollars

College football is adding three new bowl games this season.  Now, I’m not complaining – when it comes down to it, college football is like beer; you can never have too much on hand – but I’m detecting a note of quasi-shame from the decision makers about it.

“I’ve quit worrying about numbers,” said Wright Waters, the Football Bowl Association’s executive director. But he and others in the bowl industry are aware they’re nearing a saturation point.

“There’s got to be one,” Waters told USA TODAY Sports, “but I don’t know where it is. Every time I meet a mathematician, I ask him to solve this problem for me. They all look at me and laugh.”

The math guys may laugh, but you know who isn’t laughing?  The bean counters at ESPN.

Disney’s cable networks reported 9% lower operating income to $1.8 billion. The decrease was caused by higher programming and production costs at ESPN, which had higher rights fees for the college football playoffs, an added NFL playoff game and the newly launched SEC network. Cable revenues were up 11% to $4 billion.

Add three new bowl games, and you offset the hit to the bottom line a little bit.  And every little bit helps.

“At some point this is gonna be a self-limiting thing,” American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco told USA TODAY SPORTS. “It wouldn’t be responsible to have bowls beyond that certain point – but I don’t know where that point is.”

Brother, that’s something you need not worry about.  If that day ever comes, Mickey will let you know, for sure.

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

It’s all just a big misunderstanding.

Why can’t we just leave Kirk Herbstreit alone, dammit?

You know, it would just be a lot easier if he’d simply say he’s sorry that he didn’t express himself correctly, which is what I suspect he told Richt privately.  But if Herbstreit wants to leave it on us, that he was misunderstood, it’s hard to see how the snark ends.  Unless kids stop getting arrested…

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UPDATE:  Welp, that’s fifteen minutes of my life I’ll never get back.  Herbie has the utmost respect for Mark Richt and we misunderstood his intent when he tweeted.  Buck says that those of us continuing to poke at Herbstreit are part of the lunatic fringe, for not letting things go.  And Kincaid claims this is more about Georgia fans defending Richt from criticism than trying to hold Herbstreit accountable for his lack of consistency.

Thanks, guys.  I learned a lot.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football

Battle of the 800-pound gorillas

I mentioned last week that the WWL was more than a trifle miffed with Verizon’s new Custom TV package, which allowed customers to choose basic cable packages that didn’t include ESPN – sacrilege, I know.

Anyway, it seems Verizon didn’t take the hint.  So Mickey is taking things to the next level.

ESPN filed a lawsuit against Verizon in New York Supreme Court on Monday, asserting that the telecommunications company breached its contract with the network when it unveiled a new cable package last week.

On April 19, Verizon introduced a cable package that took channels normally available on basic cable — networks like ESPN, Comedy Central and USA — and separated them into smaller, category-specific groups like sports, entertainment and children’s programs that customers can choose from. Verizon introduced the package with apparently little to no discussion with these cable networks. Disney, which owns ESPN, complained that Verizon made a “unilateral” decision.

What this is all really about is streaming.  Netflix and similar enterprises are eating into what cable and satellite broadcast providers market because they’re cheaper.  Funny how that works.

This is a fight over preserving market share in a changing market.

“ESPN is at the forefront of embracing innovative ways to deliver high-quality content and value to consumers on multiple platforms, but that must be done in compliance with our agreements,” an ESPN spokeswoman said. “We simply ask that Verizon abide by the terms of our contracts.”

Verizon is not backing down.

“Consumers have spoken loud and clear that they want choice, and the industry should be focused on giving consumers what they want,” a Verizon spokeswoman said in response to the lawsuit. “We are well within our rights under our agreements to offer our customers these choices.”

Sometimes, we consumers sure can be a pesky lot.

The longer trend doesn’t favor ESPN.  Even if the network prevails and stops Custom TV for the moment, there’s always the next contract to fight over.  And consumer choice ain’t going away.

The reason you should pay attention to this fight isn’t just because you’re a consumer.  It’s also worth watching to see if it eventually impacts the conference broadcast business model, particularly the Pac-12’s, but also to a lesser extent, the Big Ten’s, as both have ownership interests in their conference networks.  In any event, if things reach a point where these networks have to stand on their own as part of a special platform, as opposed to being ladled in with basic coverage, that’s likely to be problematic.  It’s one thing to see the cost of the Big Ten Network subsidized and pushed to viewers at a lower cost.  It’s another to ask those viewers to pay for the package on its own at a cost several multiples higher than it is now.

What happens to college athletics if the money spigot from broadcast revenues slows?  Think of all the money-driven decisions that have been made over, say, just the last five years.  College football has been modified in substantial ways over that time.  If the cash flow begins to dry up, there will be plenty of unpleasant ramifications.  And I doubt the geniuses who have driven things to this point are even thinking about those yet.

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UPDATE:  Brian Cook, on the Big Ten…

… Right now sports is being subsidized by people who don’t care about it at all. In an a-la-carte world that no longer happens.

Then what? Then ESPN takes a bath, with sports leagues next on the chopping block. ESPN costs 6 bucks a month for a channel 20% of people are interested in; it will not cost thirty bucks a month in an a-la-carte world because a lot of people will forgo it. There’s only so much you can do by strong-arming customers in an environment where ten bucks a month gets you a virtually infinite pile of content. The people who don’t care will opt out.

This is why adding questionable fanbases to the Big Ten in the pursuit of short-term cable dollars was so incredibly foolish even beyond the deleterious effects of adding a bunch of games nobody in the world cares about. Every time I see someone hail Jim Delany as some kind of visionary I want to laugh/cry.

Give this a few years, and I suspect he’ll be far from alone.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness, See You In Court

Friday morning buffet

I’ve kept the chafing dishes full pretty much all week.

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Filed under Big Ten Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant, Science Marches Onward, The NFL Is Your Friend.

ESPN clown car down for repairs

SI‘s Richard Deitsch reports that Lou Holtz is out at ESPN.

SI.com learned over the weekend that ESPN has parted ways with Lou Holtz, who had been a college football studio analyst with the network since 2004 and worked most notably with host Rece Davis and analyst Mark May on ESPN’s Saturday College Football Final pregame, halftime and postgame studio coverage. Holtz was also a regular contributor to SportsCenter and ESPN Radio. The decision, according to sources, was closer to a mutual agreement between the parties than Holtz getting forced out. The 78-year-old said last May that he would retire from broadcasting after the 2014 season though at the time the network said Holtz had not informed them of such thinking.

Asked why it parted with Holtz, an ESPN spokesperson said via email: “Lou brought a champion’s perspective and a legacy of accomplishment to our coverage along with his distinctive style and humor. We appreciate his contributions and wish him all the best in the future.”

While the normal reaction from a college football fan with a functioning brain to news like this would be something on the order of “jeez, what took you so long, Mickey?”, Deitsch gives us a dose of unintentional hilarity with this:  “There are plenty in Bristol who knew the Holtz-Mark May shtick was long past its shelf life and this is a good time to change things up.”

Oh, really?

I don’t know how anyone up there could have gotten that impression.  And I don’t have much faith that the same people in charge who thought crap like that was worth broadcasting regularly are going to do a bang up job with the retooling.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

“Are You Willing To Pay $36 Per Month For ESPN?”

Given how few other channels I regularly watch on Dish, in essence, I already am.

The amusing part of the linked article is this:

Michael Nathanson, of MoffettNathanson Research crunched the numbers to see how much it would really cost to create an a la carte world where consumers only had to pay for the stations they wanted to watch. Looking at “reach” (defined here as the percentage of U.S. viewers watching an individual channel over a finite period of time) and subscriber fees (the price per subscriber a company like Comcastpays to a network like ESPN to carry the network) Nathanson found that users would have to pay $36.30 per month for ESPN.

Of course ESPN is an outlier. With a $6.10 subscriber fee (paid by cable companies) ESPN is far and away the most expensive network.

But even less expensive networks like TNT, Disney Channel and USA would be pricey on an a la carte basis.TNT would cost $8.95 per month, Disney Channel would cost $8.25 and USA would cost $5.45 per month.

Those number are, of course, ridiculously high and they’re even worse when you look at what people believe they should be able to pay for something like ESPN a la carte. Beta Research found that the perceived value of ESPN to viewers is $1.45 per month — a $34.85 difference between what they would actually be asked to pay.

So your average rube undervalues what ESPN currently costs in a bundle by a factor of four.  Yeah, I’d say somebody’s in for a bad case of sticker shock if unbundling cable ever becomes a reality.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

On the day after, they rested.

There’s lots of backpatting in Heather Dinich’s piece about the Lords of the CFP resting on their laurels.

“We got it right,” Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said.

Of course, she spends most of the rest of the article discussing changes they’d like to see.  (Well played, ma’am, even if there’s a little shooting fish in a barrel element to it.)  The obvious one is postseason expansion, for which they’re currently opposed, but as nobody takes that seriously for the long term, we can just skip past that.

The real test coming of their collective manhood is fairly trivial, except for one thing.  See if you can guess.

The majority of commissioners said the only significant change in 2015 should be fewer than seven weekly rankings. When the rankings were initially discussed, it was proposed they would be released every other week.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he would ask the group to consider “a poll midseason, a poll at Week 9 and a poll at the end” to avoid “the abrupt fluctuations you sometimes had this year.”

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said he would suggest three or four rankings and releasing them every other week in November, before the final ranking in December.

“That’s really the only change I would hope we have a conversation about in April,” Thompson said. “We don’t need seven. I know ESPN likes seven. It’s great ratings, but there’s other ways you get around it. It’s good information because all week you can argue back and forth … so it’s all good for the sport. But they don’t mean anything, quite honestly.”  [Emphasis added.]

There’s the old eight hundred-pound gorilla in the room.  Hey, Craig, most people knew they didn’t mean anything last season and that didn’t stop the WWL then.

The reason they want a change is because of the one area of unease from last season – the debate over Baylor and TCU.

“The issue was with what happened with the TCU situation: winning 55-3 and going from three to six [in the Week 16 rankings],” Aresco said. “We can talk about whether there should be continuity week to week, as opposed to starting from scratch. It’s a debate. I don’t know how I feel, myself. It’s something that publicly was one of the criticisms of the committee’s process because is it fair to the kids who think, ‘OK, we’re No. 3, and we win 55-3. We’ve been very impressive, and we fall all the way to six’? That one is something we have to talk about.”

Here’s the thing:  if you’re really serious about this whole “they don’t mean anything” bit, why do you need any rankings at all before December?  I think we all know the answer to that.

In the meantime, I look forward to another interview with Thompson in which he explains how you can become a little bit pregnant.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil