Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil

Thanks, mom.

The things that go through people’s minds some days

For Christensen and her fiance, Shawn Ostroskie, the decision was simple. “Her dad and I both love sports and he has an older daughter,” Rachel Christensen, an administrative assistant at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, Ore., said in a phone interview. “He didn’t want to have any more kids and then I was pregnant and I wanted him to be excited about being pregnant. I saw Espn in the name book and after that he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna have a kid named Espn!’”

ESPN may be ubiquitous, but Espn the baby name isn’t. It doesn’t appear among the top 1,000 choices since 1980 for either a boy or a girl in the Social Security Administration’s database. Admittedly, not everyone gets the choice.

“We didn’t know if she was going to be a boy or girl, but we both liked it,” Christensen said. “Everybody thinks we’re crazy and nobody can say it right.”

Umm… they may have a point.

Advertisements

8 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, General Idiocy

Triumph of the booboisie

Lord knows, Stewart Mandel has made for a convenient foil on more than one occasion here at the blog, but the idea that ninety-second clips of Skip Bayless pontificating on any subject have more perceived value to Fox Sports than Bruce Feldman’s college football insight is nauseating.

This is what I was getting at in yesterday’s post about ESPN’s business model.  Those of you who insist on getting wrapped up in the bullshit about Mickey embracing liberal politics are missing the real point.  Irritating blather has value to these people.  It’s not about left or right; it’s about providing a platform for pundits to say something outrageous enough to make the average viewer want to pay attention.

Live sports may be what drives the train for most of us, but apparently there’s marginal value in insulting the intelligence of some part of the viewership.  While that may be profoundly depressing to those of us who are rational beings, you can’t argue with the reality that these are the bets these media giants are making.  After all, we live in a world where they keep spinning off “Housewives of XXX” like there’s no tomorrow, because there’s a reliably profitable viewership out there.  Why should we think the sports world — professional wrestling, anyone? — is immune to that?

I’m not trying to argue that to some extent the media hasn’t brought this on itself.  I mocked this development at the time, but since then it’s taken on a certain canary in the coal mine aspect that now seems as inevitable as it is sad.

Make no mistake, though.  The public is complicit, too.  Fox and ESPN are giving us what they are convinced we want, or at least enough of us want, such that it makes it worth their while to debase their product.  I’d like to believe they’ve lost their way, but the saddest point of all is that I can’t help but concede the merit of their cynicism.

Enjoy what’s left of actual sports journalism.  It’s hard to see a robust future for it.

57 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, Media Punditry/Foibles

I know you are, but what am I?

We’ve all seen the potshots taken at ESPN’s business model of late, but what if Mickey’s not exactly wrong about what it’s doing?  From a bottom line standpoint, here is how an 800-pound gorilla thinks:

“You have to build a deeper moat,” he often said when discussing competition. In Skipper’s folksy Southern style, that meant keeping ESPN’s enemies at bay. It meant identifying the rights ESPN wanted — the NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, college sports, tennis — and paying a dollar more than anyone else to get them.

And while you may think in an era of decline cable subscribers, that’s a dumb strategy, the numbers disagree with you.

Distributors started creating low-cost packages as a retention method to keep their customers from cutting the cord. Many of those packages do not include ESPN, a move that surprised many cable veterans who assumed that the network’s contracts would not allow cable operators to keep ESPN off those packages. Standard cable contracts mandate that channels have to be in a certain percentage of homes — called “minimum penetration thresholds.”

Around 15 years ago, though, ESPN took those clauses out of its deals in exchange for convincing distributors to pay a higher license fee. Several distribution executives describe the move as a good one for ESPN at the time, as it made sure that the channel not only had the highest affiliate fee in the business, but its annual increases were bigger than other channels’ entire fee.

In 2016, for example, distributors paid ESPN $7.24 per subscriber per month, according to Kagan. In 2017, that fee increased to $7.89, an increase of 65 cents. Only 13 channels make more than 65 cents per subscriber per month, including four Disney-owned channels — ESPN, Disney Channel ($1.49), ESPN2 (98 cents) and SEC Network (72 cents).

Even though ESPN’s distribution is smaller, the network still is making more in affiliate revenue thanks to those increases. ESPN executives insist they like that trade-off, and distribution executives even privately agree that the 15-year old arrangement has been good for ESPN.

If the value in a live sports network is the control of live sports, then what Mickey has been doing with the layoffs and its rights bidding makes some sense, despite what such insightful figures like Jason Whitlock and Clay Travis insist otherwise.

One of ESPN’s top executives accused Fox Sports of advocating what he called a false notion that the network operates with a liberal bias.

“The whole narrative is a false one that was seeded and perpetuated primarily by a direct business competitor,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s executive vice president of programming and scheduling. “We have no political agenda whatsoever.”

Fox Sports has given voice to many of the accusations of ESPN’s liberal bias. For example, Fox Sports 1’s afternoon studio show co-host, Jason Whitlock, wrote a May 7 editorial for The Wall Street Journal in which he accused ESPN of adhering to a “strict obedience to progressive political correctness.”

Whitlock is a former ESPN employee who spent two stints with the Bristol-based company before leaving for Fox. Fox Sports and The Wall Street Journal share a corporate parent in News Corp.

Another Fox Sports personality who continually questions ESPN’s business model has also taken on the ESPN-as-liberal topic several times. In an April post on his Outkick The Coverage blog, Fox Sports personality Clay Travis wrote, “ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.”

Again, is losing millions of viewers more important to ESPN than maintaining revenues?  That hardly seems likely.

The topper to all this is that the WWL isn’t the only live sports outlet that’s let reporting talent go lately in a search for the right kind of balance as the broadcast world copes with a changing market.

Fox Sports will eliminate about 20 writing and editing positions in Los Angeles and replace them with a similar number of jobs in video production, editing and promotion. Executives told staff in meetings Monday after outlining the new strategy in a memo obtained by Bloomberg. Affected employees will be encouraged to apply for the new posts.

The owner of Fox News and the Fox broadcast network has decided that paying writers to cover sporting events, pen columns or grade teams’ NBA draft moves is best left to ESPN and other news-focused sports sites. Fox is opting to divert those resources into producing online video that complements on-air shows, can be packaged into advertising sales across the web and TV, and has the potential to go viral on social media.

News outlets of all shapes and sizes are making a transition from the written word to video.

Nothing wrong with that; it’s just another indication that the networks are feeling their way around the best way to help the bottom line in a digital, video-based era.  I mean, this is some kind of echo:

… But this is only the culmination of months-long efforts by Horowitz to shift digital’s focus away from covering news and towards promoting FS1’s on-air personalities. In fact, writers sent to the Super Bowl in February were told once they arrived that they wouldn’t be writing for FoxSports.com, but would be ghostwriting copy for on-air talent instead. Digital executives like Pesavento and Mike Foss (both previously For The Win) have been pushed out as well, top writers like Bruce Feldman have been posting pieces on Facebook instead of on Fox’s site, and FoxSports.com has become more and more about what their debate show personalities say on-air…

If both sides are doing it, there’s nothing political about that.  But letting Clay Travis, who’s had a longstanding weak grasp of economic issues, gin up righteous indignation is a great way to attract the rubes, I suppose.  Maybe Travis can get Feldman to ghostwrite some college football pieces for him.

In any event, watch those subscription fees, peeps.  They matter a lot more than Caitlyn Jenner and Curt Schilling.

17 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, It's Just Bidness

Well, that’s one way of looking at it.

The last wave of conference expansion, primarily motivated by sheer greed, has been the most destructive action concerning college football in my lifetime.  In its wake, scheduling for both football and basketball in the Southeastern Conference can be described as falling somewhere between ridiculous and nightmarish.  And of course, it’s laid bare the money chase that infests every athletic program nowadays, which comes at the cost of ignoring the wishes of much of the conference’s fan bases in various forms.  (Noon in Sanford Stadium… doesn’t that send chills up your spine?)

But if you ask the crack pundits at ESPN, it’s all good.

SEC

Gained: Missouri, Texas A&M
Lost: Nobody

How it’s worked out: The conference expanded its geographic footprint, and both football programs had success early on (the Aggies started 20-6 in the first two seasons, and Missouri won SEC East titles in 2013 and 2014). In 2014, two years after the schools joined, the SEC Network launched, and it has been successful in terms of distribution and revenue. That has only strengthened the conference. The league outpaces every other in the country when it comes to media-rights revenue distribution.  [Emphasis added.]

Woo hoo!  What’s good for ESPN is good for the SEC.

The WWL’s article celebrating the first few years of the sixteen-team college football playoff field writes itself, doesn’t it?

7 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

Thursday nights just got quieter.

And, lo, there was much rejoicing.

Jesse Palmer has agreed to remain with ESPN after being hotly pursued by Fox Sports, sources tell Sporting News.

The college football analyst signed a seven-figure, multiyear contract to remain at ESPN, sources said. His previous contract with the network was set to expire in July.

Sources also said Palmer, the lead analyst for ESPN’s SEC Network, will no longer call games; instead, he is expected to move into the studio full time for halftime and postgame coverage during Saturday games.

I just hope this doesn’t turn out to be one of those “I’ve got some good news and some bad news” moves by the WWL.

24 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

Eat, drink and spend broadcast revenue

Reading this article, I think the SEC grand poobahs Seth Emerson interviewed about cord-cutting mistook the question “Should the SEC be worried?” for “Is the SEC worried?”

There’s a difference, which they’ll realize in a decade or so.

22 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

“We’re going to keep the game moving.”

The SEC, all in on keeping the trains running on time.

When it comes to halftime, Shaw said there’s an acknowledgement that there has been too much lollygagging. The concern is that officials have gotten away from starting the 20-minute halftime clock immediately, either because they’re waiting on the coaches’ walk-off interview, or the game manager says they have two bands going, etc. So halftimes have often been stretching to 23 or 24 minutes.

So now after the last play of the half, the referee will make sure there are no flags, no replay review coming, etc.

“And then we’re going to crank the 20-minute [clock],” Shaw said.

When the 20 minutes are up, kickoff will quickly follow. Hopefully within seconds of that 20-minute clock running out.

“I really believe if our officials work well with our TV partners, and we do well with the halftime component, we’ll whittle that down,” Shaw said.

Then there’s first downs, and the clock winding quickly afterwards. Shaw said there will be a re-emphasis on re-starting the clock when the center judge puts the ball down to be snapped. Research showed they had also delayed a bit there.

It’s not just there: Shaw said referees have been told to be “actively consistent” in restarting the game clock after the substitution process.

But only to a certain extent.

So what about the length of commercial breaks, which fans complain about? That’s out of the control of the officials.

If you’ve been to games, you may notice an official in a red hat who signals to the referee when TV has come out of commercial, meaning the game can re-start. The referee cannot simply end the commercial break and re-start the game.

The referee do have the discretion to keep the game going rather than going to a TV timeout, in some cases where flow of the game is important.

“If there’s a momentum play, the referee can look at the red hat and say, no,” Shaw said. “Let’s say you have a punt. The referee gets ready for play, gets his count, and I would always sneak a peak at the red hat and he would say, ‘I want a timeout.’ But we would get a big punt return and I’ll say to him, Nope we’re going, we’re staying.

“But once it goes to TV, our TV liaison has total control.”

Priorities, priorities.

14 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football