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.