Wednesday, April 26, 2017

ESPN Catches a Lot of Karma

The face of ESPN - 2015 ESPY winner Caitlyn Jenner
Business Rule #1 - Do Not Offend Your Customers

You wonder if today's ESPN sports journalists attended the same leftist university journalism schools as the rest of the mainstream media and never met any actual sports fans before taking up sports reporting. Let me 'splain. You see, sports fans, the kind who burrow down into statistics and player lives and the mechanics of professional sports, the raison d'etre for ESPN's very existence in the first place, tend to lean hard to starboard. That's nautical-speak meaning "to the right" for ESPN reporters who don't cover the America's Cup. 

ESPN laid off a hundred people the other day. Many more are expected to follow. ESPN boss,  and all their PR guys attribute ESPN's massive employee layoffs to a "changing media landscape" and other high-sounding marketing jargon laden excuses. I suspect what ESPN is experiencing is what liberal's who embrace Eastern mysticism call "karma". 

Interesting that ESPN doesn't credit the past year or so worth of increasingly leftist reporting and conservative bashing by the sports network as having anything to do with the staggering loss of conservative ESPN viewers. Turns out a lot of sports fans tend to be conservative, a demographic data point ESPN's marketing people seem to have missed. Not many mainstream news outlets are talking about the possibility that the recent shift to the leftward at ESPN may have fueled the loss of 621,000 subscribers in October 2016 and a full 7.2 million since.

ESPN tries to spin the layoffs as "not my fault" and some sort of cagey business decision. They should have seen the handwriting on the wall when they took back dismal Marxist Keith Olbermann from MSNBC and then had to explain why they fired him again with the usual "taking a different direction" excuse for his abysmal ratings. Since failing with Olbermann's in-your-face leftism, ESPN has allowed it's mainline reporters much more latitude in expressing their political opinions and disdain for all things conservative and Republican, perhaps expecting sports fans to accept their Marxism in smaller doses and not noticing it. The It has hurt them in ways I do not think they expected. In the process they discovered that sports fans are not sheep to be led about by the good shepherd ESPN.

Then came the Arthur Ashe Courage Award this year being given to Caitlyn Jenner. Again ESPN mis-underestimated the cringe factor that would come with that pit of political flag-waving. Fans tuned out in droves.

Another under-reported fact about ESPN's declining fortunes is just what the statistics of viewer vs subscriber losses say about fan disenchantment with the network. It is significant that ESPN has lost more far more viewers than subscribers in the past year.  While 7.2 million lost subscribers may be a relatively small percentage of ESPN's subscribers list, the loss of viewers says much more about viewer revolt, especially if you happen to be an ESPN advertiser. This disparity between subscriber and viewer loss is largely due to the fact that to "unsubscribe from ESPN" you often have to dump your entire cable package. ESPN is included in many basic cable/satellite subscriber packages or in special sports packages. To lose ESPN means you lose the other stuff as well.  As a result, many viewer have not dumped the network. Many sports fans just quit watching ESPN altogether and shifted over to Fox Sports or other less political sports news sources.

This Newsbuster story is a fair treatment of the consequences of ESPN's going hard left and viewers not liking it. They go into the numbers in more detail than I want to get into. The mainstream media have remained relatively quiet about ESPN's troubles, generally accepting the self-proclaimed World Leader in Sports' spin on the problem. One wonders whether the folk at ESPN will actually hear the message or is their political ideology so important that they will cling to it and content themselves with a smaller left-wing sports fan base.

Karma, as they say, is an angry female canine.

© 2017 by Tom King

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