In case you hadn’t heard, the ax fell big time today for many of ESPN’s on-air talent. Most folks let go were on expiring contracts and they weren’t offered extensions. Others were offered buyouts.
Some of the more notable names included longtime NFL reporter Ed Werner, former NFL QB Trent Dilfer, baseball analyst extraordinaire Jason Stark, college football and ESPN Radio personality Danny Kanell, and a variety of others.
The reason, according to “The Worldwide Leader of Sports” network was bottom-line based. It’s not that ESPN was losing money, they simply weren’t making as much as they used to. Therefore, much like oil companies adjusting the price of oil to maintain profit margins, ESPN needed to shave salary in order to maintain their expected level of profit-earning.
Some analysts believe profits margins were falling at ESPN because of greed. Media providers and their customers (global-wide) are tiring of ESPN’s exorbitant subscriber fees and turning to other options for sports news and information. ESPN themselves concedes that growing online content has contributed to changing trends in sports viewership. I agree with some of this.
There was a time when the nightly addition of SportsCenter was must-see t.v. for any sports fan.
Whether you loved the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, college sports, or motorsports, ESPN was your one-stop shopping destination for all things sports.
The times however, have changed. Now-a-days, if I want NFL, I watch NFL Network. If I want baseball, I don’t watch “Baseball Tonight” on ESPN, I watch MLB TV. If I want NBA highlights, I tune into NBA TV. Do you like tennis? Golf? Hockey? There are channels solely dedicated to those sports too. Point being, this is a level of competition ESPN never had to deal with in the past. Even the college conferences have their own networks. This newer age of sports-specific programming makes it impossible for ESPN to succeed in the way it did for its first 30 years. To me, this more than anything, is the reason for their sinking demand and ratings.
ESPN has tried other strategies in the past couple of years. Strategies I think come off as more insulting or at least desperate than effective.Michael & Jemele: SC6
There’s no question ESPN’s on-air talent was significantly lacking in diversity for many years. Look back at those old SportsCenter clips. Probably 90% young and middle-aged white men. So ESPN’s strategy the past few years has been to correct this disparity by focusing on changing its “look” as quickly as possible. They want their shows, like the new 6pm SportsCenter (SC6) to be more edgy and hip. So by more “edgy” and “hip” I guess they mean, “less white” right? I find that insulting to both white and black on-air personalities and viewers.
With the exception of “Screamin’ A” Smith, who I find incessantly annoying, I’m otherwise happy to see more woman and men of varying nationalities on the air. Why shouldn’t there be? If you’re good at what you do, who cares what your sex or race is.
Yet I just get the feeling that in the board room of ESPN there are a collection of executives looking at data and saying to one and other, “We need to get more black!“ Or “We need to get more Latino!” I’m not saying one has anything to do with the other, but I did notice nearly everyone fired today at ESPN was middle-aged white.
My advice to ESPN is this…….if you want to buck the slumping trends of your viewership, don’t worry so much about the skin color or sex of your on-air talent. Don’t worry about looking more like this or that.
Just worry about getting better at what you do. Quality programming comes in all colors, shapes, and sizes.