By Tony Softli
Has covering sports really changed within the media industry? Yes! Did ESPN bite off more than they could chew in the way of contracts with professional sports leagues and lets don’t forget college sports as well? I know lets blame it on the millenniums for not sitting in front of the television or big screen as their parents and grandparents did. It’s been reported that ESPN has shifted their focus to the digital era and the mass layoffs were imminent.
It is estimated ESPN lost at least 10 million subscribers over the past few years, not having the brainstorming and vision or lack of projections for the future in broadcasting cost in professional and collegiate sports. Question for those making the decisions, how many management types were fired?
ESPN signed an eight year 15 billion extension with the National Football League in 2011. The National Basketball Association a nine year 12 billion deal and 7 billion signing with college football playoffs and the list goes on and on. Are covering big money sports squeezing the last purple nickel out of ESPN?
“ESPN was wrapped in Teflon for many years, but big payouts for rights fees plus significant losses in their subscriber base were like punches to the gut and head, and now the company is trying to make sure they are strong enough to fight in the future,” said James Andrew Miller, who wrote a book on ESPN and has contributed to The New York Times. “They’ve decided one way to do this is to change their approach to content and rely more heavily on digital; this has enabled them to let go of a big chunk of their talent base.”
I have friends that lost their jobs at ESPN, they were writers, television personalities, analyst and radio host. When several were approached by ESPN management about a pay cut in 2015, you knew the hammer would fall for several top names soon. Was NFL Analyst Tom Jackson forced to retire? Chris “Boomer” Berman the first face I can remember on the 24 hour Sports cable network, has been shifted out of the mainstream NFL shows.
Talent released by ESPN: Trent Dilfer, Jay Crawford, Ed Werder, Jayson Stark, Dana O’Neil, Jerome Bettis, Andrew Brandt, Sara Walsh, Adam Kaplan, Jarrett Bell and the list goes on and on of recognized professionals that worked for ESPN, for multiple years if not decades.
In 2010 my contract as V.P. of Player Personnel was not extended by incoming GM, while checking out the NFL landscape of jobs, I was offered an opportunity on the media side of the fence as a radio host, NFL Sideline Reporter and NFL Analyst by 101ESPN/St. Louis Rams Radio Network. I reached out to friends in the media business to help me in the transition from NFL front office to NFL Analyst. My mentors that helped me were Gil Brandt, the late Bryan Burwell, Andrew Brandt and ESPN latest causality the Professor John Clayton.
Trimming the fat or downsizing is a part of big business change, I get it. Making bad business deals that directly reflect the future of how you do business and not making sound decisions because of the lack of vision into the future is not acceptable when talented hard working people pay the price. I say cut the fat at the top on those that lacked the vision and signed mega billion dollar deals, when in reality less a deal might be the best deal.
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