What do you want to bet they’re excitedly — ooh, sorry, elatedly! — passing that crap around Butts-Mehre?
Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil
I figured this shoe was going to drop at some point.
The Walt Disney Company announced today that it has agreed to acquire majority ownership of BAMTech, LLC and will launch its ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018, followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019…
The ESPN-branded multi-sport service will offer a robust array of sports programming, featuring approximately 10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year, including Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, Grand Slam tennis, and college sports. Individual sport packages will also be available for purchase, including MLB.TV, NHL.TV and MLS Live.
The new service will be accessed through an enhanced version of the current ESPN app. In addition to the multi-sport service, the ESPN app will include the news, highlights, and scores that fans enjoy today. Consumers who are pay TV subscribers will also be able to access the ESPN television networks in the same app on an authenticated basis. For many sports fans, this app will become the premier digital destination for all their sports content.
Just another reminder that while we live in an age when delivery is important, content matters even more, as it always has. In that department, the WWL remains, and wants to remain, the 800-pound gorilla of college sports.
For at least a couple weeks, one of the elements being displayed there is a countdown of the number of days until the kickoff of the college football campaign.
“Season starts in 37 days” it proclaimed Tuesday. On Wednesday it was down to 36.
Uh, no. The season begins 29 days from then, with eight games on Aug. 26 — a Saturday. Three of them (Portland State-Brigham Young, Chattanooga-Jacksonville State and Stanford-Rice) even are to be shown on ESPN! There’s another game that Sunday, Richmond-Sam Houston State, which ESPNU televises.
The date the ticker is referring to is the following Thursday, which is NOT the start to the season but instead the kickoff to the first “full weekend” of games, making it a prime target for hype — which you can expect to see plenty of as that date draws closer. ESPN and its leading affiliated outlets, including ABC, have 19 games scheduled over an elongated four-day weekend. That schedule is highlighted by the Florida State-Alabama game that Saturday night on ABC (KDNL, Channel 30 locally). There also are in excess of a dozen more games that will stream exclusively on ESPN3, plus seven on it’s ACC Network .
We asked an ESPN spokesman for an explanation, which is:
“We consider August 26 to be Week 0 of the college football season because, for the vast majority of fans, the season begins in earnest on August 31 with a full slate of games among Top 25 teams and other major schools.”
College football, partners don’t let partners downgrade the product.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gained: Missouri, Texas A&M
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?