Life Moves Pretty Fast
Progress. Humanity has a paradoxical relationship with it. On one hand, we recoil in terror, on the other, we reach for it like an infant from the play pen. We can choose to roll with it or get left behind. As the movie character Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Cable giant ESPN has been in grave danger of being left behind for some time. And some may say, they failed to look around and missed life. Now, they are paying a terrible price. More so, the over 100 people that the media behemoth laid off recently, as they ultimately paid the piper.
The shock of that move struck everyone without immunity as we streamed the news from our phones or tablets. In looking back, the irony of where we read it shouldn’t be lost on any of us, either. As we stream the information into our handheld devices, the answer to the question, how could this of happened, is right in front of us.
We’re not watching television anymore. Well, certainly not like we did ten years ago. And, as more youth enter the real world many are “cutting the cord”. Many aren’t connecting at all. Most don’t even have Netflix or they use their parents password to access it on their devices.
There is a major shift in content delivery that’s been building and the shock waves from the ESPN personnel “shift” are just the beginning.
Something Doesn’t Add Up
Yet, ESPN recently paid $80,000,000 to cover the Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State. A college football event lasting all of four hours. Let that price tag sink in for a second. It makes you wonder where they find the money to pay for those rights.
Of all the non subscription based channels, ESPN charges cable companies 5 times that of the next closest channel. Yes, advertisers pay ESPN big bucks too, but the majority of their revenue is from nationwide cable providers. The sports outlet needs that revenue because everything they cover is made possible by rights they’ve paid for.
Cable isn’t dying but it’s on its way to becoming a minority media medium. Only 40 percent of cable viewers say they’re actually watching ESPN which leaves 60 percent of users paying heavily for something they don’t want, need or use. For years, cable customers couldn’t pick or choose their non premium channels. They were stuck. It wasn’t without trying though.
With streaming services now in direct competition and at lower rates for content delivery, the writing is on the wall. Customers are no longer weighed down with extraneous channels and with customers fleeing, cable revenues are hemorrhaging. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure which network is going to feel it first.
ESPN will survive but the ramifications will be felt throughout the sports world, especially at the college level. They’ll still get the contracts but the rate of revenue that the NCAA and Power Five conferences once licked their chops over will diminish dramatically.
Now think dominoes, all lined up and ready to fall. You see, if the revenue begins to drop off, so will exorbitant coaching contracts that have skyrocketed year after year. The well isn’t drying up but the flow is certainly slowing.
Where To Next?
As more of the population aims for entertainment on the go, the media landscape will only get more challenging.
The ACC was wise in expanding it’s presence in the digital world. They knew where the majority of sports coverage is headed and that is on the go.
The real damage from the loss of jobs at ESPN? The majority of those departing are reporters. You know, the people doing the footwork of traditional journalism. Finding facts, piecing them together and creating a tapestry of sports news that we could believe and rely on.
Reporters like Ed Werner, Jayson Stark and Brett McMurphy, the latter with whom I had the pleasure of knowing in my early days at the now defunct Tampa Tribune. These individuals along with the rest will be a gift to the next media outlet wise enough to grab their services.
What’s left? ESPN has the likes of Jemele Hill, Max Kellerman and the baseless, Stephen A. Smith. They’re not journalists, they merely offer narrative. Commentators have their place but they need stories to base their opinions on. You fill in the blanks.
Progress is painful and how ESPN and other sports media evolve with the changes will be interesting to watch.
Roll with the changes or get left behind.
Yes, life moves pretty fast.