ESPN has long been the most powerful entity in the sports media industry. You and I know them as the top dog and number one channel for all things sports. In 2012 alone, ESPN generated more revenue for Disney than any of its other properties combined, but considering ESPN’s recent massive firing of some of the most influential writers in sports, we are seeing a major decline in the once flawless sports network.
There are many reasons that we’ve arrived at this point. Most articles that I’ve read say it is because ESPN became too liberal, broadcasting rights are more expensive than ever and/or because the younger generation of cord-cutters who no longer subscribe to a TV subscription. The latter, to me, is the most obvious answer. With the network losing more than 10 million subscribers over the last five years, ESPN clearly has their finger on the panic button!
One major reason that everyone is forgetting to talk about is the rise of YouTube and the evolution of how we receive our media. The reality is that we don’t need a sports channel like we used to. ESPN was the go to channel for all things sports, but let’s be honest, the main reason that ESPN was so successful was its TV show SportsCenter. I used to religiously follow that show. Tuning in every night to catch all the highlights in sports, and I was no different than most other fans in sports. Even your non-sports fans would enjoy tuning in to watch the top 10 or not top 10 highlights of the week. But what is the point anymore? You now have your phone to give you all the latest news and updates that you need. I now have a more personalized experience that gives me the info that I want, when I want it.
For awhile now, ESPN has been moving towards a network that is less about hard hitting journalism, and more about over the top on-air talents. By over the top, I am talking about the Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith’s of the world (the two crazy guys bickering below) that provide the best headline grabs to make social media videos go viral. Which is sad, but it’s the present existence of ESPN TV shows. Everyone LOVES a little drama. It’s not only a sad day for sport fans, but also for journalists in all forms of media. ESPN is essentially turning it’s back on the hard working people who provide in-depth analysis and stories that can move you, so that they can get a few extra tweets and likes on their next video.
ESPN’s biggest failure – and it may be too late for them to do this now – was not making their channel a subscription channel like Netflix, HBO Go and Hulu. I have been been preaching this for years, but if ESPN sold subscriptions of its channels for $8 a month, I would have signed up for that. But now with live TV streaming services like Sling and Vue, this no longer seems like a reality.
For now, ESPN is still the top dog for sports broadcasting. I still check my ESPN app everyday for the latest scores and updates. The world has changed though and no longer will it be the place for the most well produced stories in sports. Even though we are in a world of a want it now mentality, there will never be a time when we won’t need these very talented journalists. Because of their talent, they will all go on to find new jobs and be very successful. ESPN will go on to be very successful as well, but it will most likely never be the same.