Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil

An 800-pound gorilla with a contract

Verizon comes up with a “skinny bundle” that excludes ESPN.  Mickey cries foul and sues.  Verizon revises its “skinny bundle” arrangement and comes up with a second option that includes ESPN.  Mickey seems pleased.

In a statement, ESPN said, “We are encouraged by the changes that Verizon has made to Custom TV.” It added that it expected subscribers to enjoy “ESPN and ESPN2 as part of the new entry-level Custom TV offering.”

Verizon says it’s not about the lawsuit at all.

A Verizon spokesman said the changes had not been made to settle the lawsuit ESPN filed in State Supreme Court in New York, but to adapt to its customers’ buying patterns.

Still, Verizon’s chief financial officer, Fran Shammo, said Verizon was planning to “refresh” Custom TV “in the short term to be in compliance with our contractual relationships.”

Uh hunh.  Sounds like ESPN still has some leverage.  The next contract negotiation will be interesting, though.


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, See You In Court

Somebody’s gotta pay for ESPN.

What do you get when you cross ESPN’s preference for cable bundling with a decline in subscribers due to cord cutting?  Why, the worst of both worlds, of course.



Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

Wednesday morning buffet

Plenty to graze on today…


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, Recruiting, SEC Football

“Preseason FPI is designed to take the guesswork out of preseason ratings.”

ESPN, any ratings system that has Tennessee coming out ahead of Alabama may be many things, but guesswork-free ain’t one of ’em.


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Stats Geek!

That’s Entertainment (and Sports Programming Network).

Remember when ESPN’s public editor asked, “Who’s expected to live by the traditional rules and ethics of journalism, and who isn’t?” and answered by saying,

“Expecting analysts to magically transform into journalists is not a realistic expectation — and, frankly, not the role they are being asked to play.”

Yeah, well, Todd McShay.

I heard from a lot of readers on Twitter looking for information on why ESPN college football reporter and NFL draft analyst Todd McShay was part of Michigan’s signing day event hosted by the Players’ Tribune on Feb. 3 at Hill Auditorium. The optics were odd given this was essentially a pep rally for Michigan and McShay had a formal role in the show. It was unclear if you were watching whether McShay was being paid by Michigan, which would really be odd given he’d have to report on them as a sideline reporter and draft analyst. Viewers clearly notice this stuff.

ESPN management said that McShay was not paid for the appearance and it did not know about his attendance prior to the event. To his credit, McShay answered the question when asked by SI. “I completely understand that I made a mistake and clearly should have discussed this appearance with ESPN in advance,” he said. “I will obviously learn from this situation, and in no way will this compromise the quality or objectivity of my work going forward.”

These guys aren’t even fucking trying anymore.  Sure, Todd, I’ll respect your objectivity as much as you do.


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

“To be fair to ESPN’s consumers, it’s a complicated issue.”

ESPN’s Public Editor gives a pass to this:

One of the issues that most confounds ESPN’s audience is how to assess the differing roles played by its many on-camera personalities. What’s the difference between a SportsCenter anchor, an on-air reporter, an analyst or a sideline reporter? Who’s expected to live by the traditional rules and ethics of journalism, and who isn’t?

These questions run through much of the feedback I get from ESPN’s audience. It’s hot again this week, after Deadspin called out ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen for sending out sponsored tweets for a Domino’s Pizza deal that were not labeled as advertising. It was hot last week back when Mike Ditka responded to Al-Jazeera’s HGH report on Peyton Manning by calling the network “garbage.” It was hot back in November when it was revealed that ESPN NFL pregame analyst Ray Lewis had given a motivational speech to the Bills the night before a Monday Night Football game he was working.

What do I mean by a pass?  This is what I mean:  “Expecting analysts to magically transform into journalists is not a realistic expectation — and, frankly, not the role they are being asked to play.”

In other words, drop those expectations, kids, and remember what the “E” in ESPN stands for.


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

Cord-cutting, $8 a month and college football’s future

There’s a survey making the rounds that doesn’t contain a lot of happy news for Mickey’s Empire.

A survey of 1,582 consumers commissioned last week by BTIG Research found that 56 percent of respondents would remove ESPN and ESPN2 from their cable packages to save $8 per month, which is about the cost cable subscribers pay to receive the networks. Broken down by gender, 60 percent of female respondents and 49 percent of male respondents said they would remove the sports networks to save money.

“Even more interesting, results did not vary by age, with Millennials, Gen X’ers and Boomers all similar, adjusting for the survey’s margin of error,” BTIG Research’s Richard Greenfield wrote in a story about the survey results.

B-b-b-b-but I thought everybody loved sports!

Feed that information into ESPN’s existing trend lines…

Seven million U.S. households have dropped ESPN in the past two years, Disney said in a federal filing submitted in November. Its subscription base is down to 92 million homes, the lowest in nearly a decade, and the operating profit Disney expects to receive from ESPN — its most profitable cable channel — is expected to flatten this year, leading to a cost-cutting mandate from Disney.

… and it would appear that Disney is caught between a rock and a hard place with its business model.

To combat these losses, Disney chief executive Robert Iger has said ESPN is prepared to offer a direct-to-consumer subscription service, in which consumers would pay for ESPN programming by itself without subscribing to a cable package. However, this plan also presents a certain amount of risk. As The Post’s Drew Harwell noted last month, if 30 percent of ESPN’s current subscribers shifted to paying for the network via an online service, Disney would need to charge about $20 per month to make up for the revenue from lost cable subscribers.

BTIG Research also asked about this in its survey, and its results were similarly bleak for ESPN and Disney. The survey found that only 6 percent of respondents would subscribe to ESPN and ESPN2 at $20 per month, with 85 percent indicating they wouldn’t and 9 percent saying they weren’t sure.

“The reality is that ESPN would likely have to charge dramatically more than $20/month/sub in a direct-to-consumer model, given the dramatic reduction in penetration rates,” Greenfield writes, pointing out another strike against this plan: Many consumers wouldn’t subscribe to such a package on an annual basis, instead turning it off or on depending on the time of year (NFL fans only subscribing during football season, for instance).

Now, as the linked article goes on to note, talk is cheap and ESPN controls a ton of live sports programming, so if that’s what you want, you’re going to have to pay the piper, within reason, of course.  And therein lies the rub:  it’s an easy call when you’ve got the rest of the country subsidizing your sports hunger, but how much are you willing to pony up on your own?

And the obvious question to ask at that point is what happens to our buddies running college football – you know, the captains of industry running their own conference broadcast networks – get told that the next ESPN contract won’t be so lucrative?  Here’s one thought:

The future impact of cord-cutting may be far more dramatic. Where does that leave college football? The sport’s present sugar daddy ESPN, at the very least, will be shelling out far less. The same cord-cutting that harms ESPN may kill off the viewer-less conference TV networks as constituted. College football may see a finite, diminished revenue pool, concurrent with increased business costs as it resolves its amateurism conundrum and perhaps deals with increased insurance premiums as medical research continues.

Projecting specifics is murky. But, the broad direction is clear. College Football will operate more like a business, optimizing itself to create revenue (rather than just distributing it). We can expect far greater centralization and collective action. Many of the sport’s lovable little inefficiencies may be cast aside.

Without cable, college football would be attracting viewers, not trying to collect what amounts to a college football tax over the largest population footprint. The focus would move toward producing the most quality games possible. That impetus could precipitate radical changes to scheduling and the way the sport is structured.

Eh, maybe.  First off, there’s an implication there that the Scotts and Delanys running the show are capable of strategic thinking.  If so, that’s something they haven’t demonstrated before, mainly because they’ve had the luxury of a broadcast market that’s been on steroids for the past decade.

But second, if there’s one way to make me skeptical about visions like this, it’s to say “perhaps with Notre Dame”.  Notre Dame football doesn’t need a conference now.  It has its own TV deal; more importantly, it has its own TV deal on NBC.  It isn’t beholden to cable.  If Notre Dame is good now, that’s certainly not going to change in an era of cord-cutting.  In fact, it would be monumentally stupid to give up that advantage.

You know who else has that advantage?  The SEC.  Uncle Verne and Gary are free.  But what happens when the current CBS deal expires and bold leadership dictates that all football product moves to the SEC Network?  I guess we’d find out then how much Phyllis from Mulga would be willing to pay every month to listen to PAWWWLLL’s dulcet tones.

You don’t think the SEC would be dumb enough to make itself that vulnerable?  Hey, this is the conference that expanded to fourteen schools to get out of a bad TV deal.  It’s quite capable.  After all, that’s what passes for strategic thinking.


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