Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil

Marketing genius

Once thing that I continually marveled at during the period when major league baseball struggled to come to grips with player free agency is how the owners would consistently trash their own product in trying to best the players’ union.  As business strategies go, it was questionable at best and headshakingly stupid at worst.

I heard a faint echo of that when I saw Chris Fowler’s comment about the college football playoffs.

ESPN college football announcer Chris Fowler told reporters on a conference call there is a “massive need for fresh blood” in the field, although he acknowledged the reality that consistent success by Clemson and Alabama leads to fewer spots being available for teams in other regions of the country.

“Any Playoff bracket is better served when there are contenders distributed around the country, just so fans can become more invested in it,” Fowler said. “You just like to have teams from all over, playing into November in true Playoff contention. It makes the regular season more compelling for more fans. But hey, there’s not much room.”

This year’s semis had Notre Dame and Oklahoma, but never mind that, I guess.

What I really love there is the “true Playoff contention” measure, as if there’s something phony about excluding the Pac-12 from the CFP.  When you strip Fowler’s observation down to the essentials, it’s all about the company line that the playoffs should be constructed for a national audience that doesn’t care about the regular season as much as fans following a regional product do, because everybody is sure the latter will stick through whatever Mickey and his broadcast partners foist on us.

So what if there’s a little trashing of the product they’re bringing us now along the way.  It’s all for a greater cause, right?

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14 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil

The last “it just means more” moment of 2018

Shot.

Chaser.

And that, friends, is why CBS will do everything in its power to renew its SEC broadcast deal when the time comes.

16 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

“… it’s a Mickey Mouse move by Disney.”

One thing about molding college football into a national product is that it makes ESPN’s job of squeezing the market easier.

Can’t wait to watch my Notre Dame squad take on Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals this Saturday. Or not.

Tuned in to ESPN this morning and on the bottom of the screen appeared a warning that I (as a Verizon Fios customer) may soon not be able to watch the CFB playoffs and other programming, and I should call Verizon. A few minutes later ESPN ran a commercial saying I might not be able to watch the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl and provided a Verizon number for me to call.

I called Verizon. A recorded message essentially tells me that ESPN is spreading misinformation about Verizon customers losing ESPN when the network’s contract with Verizon expires later this month. The recording says Walt Disney-owned ESPN wants to charge Verizon hundreds of millions of dollars more for ESPN. The recording also says Verizon has been negotiating in good faith with Disney.

My take is Disney, which already charges by far the highest affiliate fee of any sports channel—around $8 per month per subscriber—is using the CFB playoffs and bowl games to play hardball.

Hoisted on our own petards.

15 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

Keeping the 800-pound gorilla happy

I know some of you think playoff expansion is motivated by making the postseason more encompassing of the goal to determine college football’s best team.  I think you know my belief is that the primary motivation for bracket creep is the chase for the almighty dollar.

No disrespect intended, but if I’m right, what ESPN wants matters a whole lot more than what Joe Fan wants — which makes this of interest.

ESPN expense: Three years ago, ratings for weeknight New Year’s Eve semifinal games dropped 36 percent. The CFP quickly found out The Worldwide Leader isn’t in the business of losing money. That was the end of weeknight semifinals; they were moved to weekends. So far, no one has asked ESPN how it would feel about essentially doubling its investment in the playoff if it goes from four teams to eight. (A high-ranking ESPN official would not comment.) Any expansion would have to be worthwhile to ESPN.

Early on, according to one source, school presidents said “not only said no, but hell no” to quarterfinal games on campus in an eight-team format. A TV consultant told CBS Sports all those quarterfinal games wouldn’t necessarily be a ratings winner. UCF as a No. 8 seed playing at No. 1 Alabama might be sexy this year, but what happens when that Group of Five team is a 10-2 Marshall or an 8-4 Central Michigan?

The expense for any entity that bids on the CFP will be significant. Another round of conference realignment may be on the horizon. Plenty of other sports properties will be up for bid as well (NASCAR, NFL and ‘Monday Night Football,’ MLB all by 2024 at the latest). Any streaming/broadcast/cable company must choose wisely on how to spend its money.

CBS Sports reported in 2016 that the Big 12 could earn an extra $1 billion by expanding by as many as four teams. The Big 12 eventually decided there were no desirable teams for expansion. It also decided it didn’t want to antagonize its TV partner.

For all the breathless analysis of why the playoffs should expand to an eight-team format, there’s an essential truth that generally gets brushed over.  There are almost never any seasons where eight teams deserve to be in a legitimate conversation about national titles.  Hell, most years there aren’t even five.

So, Dodd’s point about a mediocre mid-major grabbing a guaranteed spot is a legitimate one.  But ESPN’s concern probably goes farther than that.  What happens when, say, a four-loss Northwestern team pulls the upset in a conference championship game and makes the playoff field?

This is the problem you have with determining participants through a hybrid of subjective/objective criteria coupled with P5 conference championship games.  The inevitable result is there will be teams left out that are clearly better than some of those admitted, with the attendant grumbling about the unfairness of the system.

Sort of what some like to pretend exists now.  The thing is, the ones complaining aren’t paying for the privilege of doing so.  (Not to mention currently there is no risk of a mediocre team crashing the semis.)

So, back to Dodd’s point.  What if ESPN isn’t convinced bigger is better/more valuable?  Sure, maybe the commissioners can talk another broadcast source into bellying up to the bar, but now you’re answering to another master and who knows what new considerations will go into that partnership?  Further, if you’re Greg Sankey and you’re being asked to toss aside your conference’s lucrative championship game for the greater good, how do you know that the math will work out?

This is not to make predictions.  But if money talks in the way I believe it does and Mickey is reluctant, what do you honestly think happens with expansion?  Remember, there are always limits, as occurred when the last round of proposed expansion for the men’s basketball tourney turned to dust as nobody would step up to pay the NCAA for it.

29 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil

Nice canary you’ve got there, ESPN. Shame if anything were to happen to it.

Minor bowl games.  Mickey doesn’t care if anyone actually shows up in person to sit through them; he just wants people watching.

So this probably isn’t good news.

The college football bowl season got off to a slow start in the ratings.

The Fresno State-Arizona State Las Vegas Bowl earned a 2.25 rating and 3.33 million viewers on ABC Saturday afternoon, down 3% in rating and 12% in viewership from last year (Boise State-Oregon: 2.3, 3.80M) and down 5% and 11% respectively from 2016 (SDSU-Houston: 2.4, 3.74M).

The Bulldogs’ win was the least-watched Las Vegas Bowl in four years (2014 Utah-Colorado State: 1.4, 2.12M).

Earlier in the day, the North Carolina A&T-Alcorn State FCS Celebration Bowl had a 1.6 (flat) and 2.35 million (-1%). It was the least-watched edition of the game since it debuted in 2014.

Shifting to cable, the Middle Tennessee-Appalachian State New Orleans Bowl had a 0.8 and 1.37 million on ESPN — down a tick in ratings but up 3% in viewership from both last year (Troy-North Texas: 0.9, 1.33M) and 2016 (Southern Miss-Louisiana Lafayette: 0.9, 1.34M). It was the lowest rated New Orleans Bowl in nine years (2009: 0.7) and the most-watched in three (2015: 1.42M).

The Georgia Southern-Eastern Michigan Camellia Bowl had a 0.6 (-14%) and 986,000 (-17%), marking the lowest rated and least-watched edition of the five-year old game.

Finally, the Utah State-North Texas New Mexico Bowl drew a 0.7 (-9%) and 968,000 (-20%), marking the lowest rated edition of that game since at least 2008 and the least-watched since at least 2005.

There’s a lot of “lowest rated” and “least-watched” in there.  Have we finally reached a saturation point with bowl games?  Is all the playoff expansion talk having an effect on whether folks care as much about bowls?  Hard to say this early on, but if either is true, it would qualify as a self-inflicted wound by the WWL.

At risk of mixing avian metaphors, there’s a definite irony to the possibility that ESPN is killing its golden goose.  Sad, too.  Between the network and college football executives, we may need to concede that there simply isn’t a single smart person in the room.  That doesn’t bode well for the sport we love.

24 Comments

Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil

I went to the LSU-Alabama game and all I got was this lousy sweatshirt.

Give Carville credit — he ain’t backin’ down, which is more than you can say for Mickey.

The truly hilarious thing about this whole kerfuffle is that it’s a perfect, real world example of the “it just means more” blather the SEC peddles about itself.  And obviously doesn’t mean.  Then again, that’s what marketing’s all about, ain’t it?

18 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

Coming to your cit-ay

So, the circus is coming to Jacksonville…

Along with the fan equivalent of Jehovah’s Witnesses

ESPN is likely going to get a heavy dose of UCF fans when it brings College GameDay to Jacksonville Saturday for the annual Florida-Georgia rivalry matchup.

While lots of Gators and Bulldogs flock to Jacksonville for the rivalry game known as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party thanks to the ability to consume more alcohol than typically allowed on a college campus, Knights fans are sure to visit ESPN’s GameDay set.

Oy.  Get a life, people.

11 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football