Is ESPN waning?

I found this interesting article about the future of ESPN.

I wondered about them when they started to show poker and the X games. I have to say this article has some interesting points. Mainly

And it all comes back to that basic premise — ESPN is a glorified middle man whose role is increasingly unnecessary.


About Rick

1992 and 2002 graduate from NCSU. Born and raised an NCSU fan. I remember the good ol' days and they weren't in the last 20 years.


17 Responses to Is ESPN waning?

  1. gotohe11carolina 08/31/2011 at 2:04 PM #

    in quality yes… very much so. ESPN hasn’t been able to properly broadcast sports since they started hiring personalities instead of broadcasters. that said they can turn excellent broadcasters into morons too… just look at Dr. Punch

  2. old13 08/31/2011 at 2:14 PM #

    I think it has basically already died! Aside from actual game braodcasts, ESPN is about 99% pro sports stuff, about which I could mostly care less. The only reason I ever watch ESPN is if I can’t get a game of interest elsewhere. And I’ll usually mute the sound because at least 95% of the announcers detract from the game, bore me to death, or just plain make me sick! Hopefully it will die a quick death and not keep lingering on wasting air/cable/internet ether space!

  3. LRM 08/31/2011 at 2:17 PM #

    I disagree that ESPN as a distributor isn’t necessary. Most professional teams already have their own networks, right? How many of those reach outside their viewing areas?

    People in North Carolina will never buy the Big Ten Network just to see those games, but we will watch Ohio State-Wisconsin on ESPN/ABC.

    As long as conferences/teams/organizations want to be marketed nationally, ESPN will be viable.

  4. codebrown 08/31/2011 at 2:44 PM #

    It’s all about branding. The four letter network carries weight b/c they are who they are. There are plenty of companies out there that makes more money selling less than ESPN.

    Plus, with the ESPN New York, Dallas, Boston, etc., they are already starting to penetrate the local sports market. No reason why they can’t especially with ABC’s local affiliations and ESPN radio.

  5. Chucks Chesticles 08/31/2011 at 2:46 PM #

    The only way ESPN will wane is if a viable competitor arises. Who can possibly take on the mothership at this point?

    Also, I love the X Games!

  6. Rick 08/31/2011 at 3:00 PM #

    “How many of those reach outside their viewing areas?”

    Once technology allows flawless web viewing ESPN is done.

  7. PackerInRussia 08/31/2011 at 3:07 PM #

    LRM, good point. But, I think that’s why the article had to make the point that it only works if the TV cord is cut and there are easier ways to get games. There are already places where you can watch games streamed online or download them for free (granted it wouldn’t be possible to do that if it weren’t on TV to begin with). His point is that conferences will opt to cut out the middleman (ESPN) and find a way to get the customers to pay them directly. Whether it’s online or through TV, your point still stands. I might pay for the ACC Network (if the ACC still exists), but what if I want to watch OSU-Wisconsin? I’m not going to pay for the Big Ten Network just to watch that. To make it worthwhile to fans/customers, I think they’d have to have a NCAA “Network” online that allowed you to watch all games (like has with NCAA Tourney). There could be a la carte options where you pay just to watch one game (a small enough charge that it’s still worth it to the customer), conference options, etc. Or, there could also be an option to watch any games within the NCAA. Again, the price would have to be low enough that the customer would go for it, but if there’s no middleman, presumably they could offer competitive prices and still come out ahead. Of course if they were making all the calls, I guess they could charge whatever they wanted. There’d probably have to be some sort of equal sharing among conferences; maybe X% divided equally among conferences with the rest split up based on popularity of certain conferences (determined by viewer #’s). Or there could even be other incentives such as academic, national title, etc. This could even be attractive to schools not in the NCAA because they might get shown on local TV since they would no longer have any “big” games to show. I’m certainly no businessman, so my scenario is probably full of flaws.

  8. packplantpath 08/31/2011 at 3:23 PM #

    “Once technology allows flawless web viewing ESPN is done.”

    I doubt it will ever happen. Somebody has to distribute those games right? Who will it be? Probably ESPN because that guarantees more money for more people since their distribution model is to force you to get all sports or no sports. If given the option, I may buy access to only ACC games for streaming but don’t want the NFL. For others it is hockey. That is lost revenue since the current model allows them to charge you more for things you don’t want. Especially since ESPN essentially dictates what cable companies do.

    You will stream games, but will probably have to buy access to all of the ESPN games to get the ones you want. Unless cable goes a la carte, then all bets are off. I dream of that day.

  9. ryebread 08/31/2011 at 4:36 PM #

    Why would an organization ever incur distribution costs to broadcast something when ESPN will pay them and do it for them? For all those that @#($)* about ESPN, imagine how expensive it would be if we had to pay each school, conference or professional organization independent viewing fees.

    I think that ESPN is viable for quite some time. In fact, I see them getting an even bigger piece of the pie. When the BCS playoff comes, I imagine they’ll get it (especially given how they’re spending money to push for it).

  10. jbpackfan 08/31/2011 at 4:38 PM #

    CFL, Australian Rules Football, “Hot Summer Nights,” NFL Films, NFL Primetime, Scholastic Sports America. ESPN used to be awesome. ESPN needs to go back to showing that type of content. Less of the bs like the morning shows and 10 straight hours of Sportscenter

  11. tmb81 08/31/2011 at 5:41 PM #

    Some of the negativity is because we are coming off of the “silly season”: spelling bee, competitive eating, poker, LLWS, girls softball… There was no World Cup to grip us this Summer. It was just baseball and filler. Fortunately it ends 9/1 with the return of regular season football and it will be good for the next nine months.

  12. ChemE79a 08/31/2011 at 6:37 PM #

    I agree the day is coming for ESPN to slip to the side, but I believe it to be much longer term than the author. Yes the technology will soon be here to stream high enough quality video over the web to displace ESPN, but too many households will not have access to broadband for the content providers to abandon ESPN. Both in the inner core of big cities and in rural areas there are a lot of households that only have sattelite or low end cable access to ESPN. It will be a long time before a lot of these folks get a broad enough pipe to really use these new technologies.

  13. tractor57 08/31/2011 at 8:07 PM #

    ESPN rode a changing technology to the fore (cable TV). Back in my days on campus only a lucky few with an apartment and cable TV could see ESPN. I remember visiting a friend in time for the 11 PM Sportscenter when the set and the production values were not as good a most local access channels today. They will either adapt to the new technology and delivery methods or go the way of buggy whips.

  14. transylvania 08/31/2011 at 8:25 PM #

    I’m in the midst of reading ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun. Fascinating stuff — how the Rasmussen family founded the network on a credit card and a prayer in 1979 — 1979! — when most investors laughed them out of the room when they described their zany idea of a 24-hour all-sports network. I mean, how could you possibly fill 24 hours, 7 days a week with nothing but sports?

    There’s also a great section on how the network helped March Madness become what it is today. Back then, networks only carried the later-round games because they thought no one really cared about the early-round games.

    Also, a wonderful section on Valvano’s ’93 ESPY speech “Don’t ever give up.” Vitale says, “How he was able to get up here and how he was able to deliver that speech to this day is beyond me. If you had seen him that night before the show, you would have said there is no way in the world he would be able to deliver a speech.”

    All that said, as far as ESPN has come in its 32 years I think this article is spot-on. Media is now becoming so atomized, so niched, that it is only a matter of time before the one-size-fits-all behemoth that is the Worldwide Leader in Sports becomes obsolete. Unless they miraculously find some way to reinvent themselves and adapt to the shifting currents– things notoriously difficult for corporations this size to do — its demise is only a matter of time. Not today, not next year, but one day not long from now.

  15. Master 08/31/2011 at 8:49 PM #

    ESPN will outlast ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN as long as they continue to show real events that can’t be spun as a win or loss based on opinion. When they quit showing events they will be about as interesting as MTV without the videos.

    That said, ESPN engages in a lot of opinion and editorialization of the players, coaches and personalities in sport that harms their image IMO. Must I sit thru 3 hours of Kobe vs Shack or what A-Rod’s agent did just to hear what happened in actual sports? HELL NO! And that’s why I turn the channel or click the web along with several million other sports fans every day.

    What’s wrong with just reporting on the glory of sport without getting into who did what to whom. That’s whats wrong with SI as well.

  16. JeremyH 08/31/2011 at 10:41 PM #

    What is it that the sports channel outside of the United States do, that amounts to success, that has nothing to do with sensationalistic, blowhard, opinionated, stance-taking ?

  17. bTHEredterror 08/31/2011 at 11:33 PM #

    So, we’ve entered the familiarity breeds contempt phase?

    Until the internet is a manageable enterprise (read that when its ruined by absolute corporate/government control) and there is no opportunity for piracy, and people are willing to pay ten to fifteen subscription fees for online programming in addition to their internet access fees, ESPN will be the primary sports vehicle. They do well with their ESPN3 model as well. Hell, I’ll be watching it at about 6 pm on Saturday, which seems far from a dinosaur wading into the tar pits.

    Are they arrogant? Yep, but I don’t believe they are Xerox in the 70s either. And I laugh at anyone who finds Jersey Shore must watch TV.

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