The Week in Sports Media: ESPN’s Hypocrisy; Sports gambling’s effect on media; more news and notes

First off I’d like to apologize for being off schedule this week. Instead of a sports article,  I published a piece on The Middle, an ABC sitcom that ended for good on Tuesday. I also failed to write a Flashback Friday article. Again, I’m sorry, but you should be excited for what The Triple Threat has in store for the next few weeks. Meanwhile, read all about a very busy week in the world of sports media. Starting……NOW!

ESPN’s Hypocrisy

ESPN fired Curt Schilling in 2016 for his political rants. Whether you like it or not, Schilling had relatively standard conservative beliefs.

Jemele Hill, meanwhile, is still on the payroll (although not on the 6pm SportsCenter) despite calling Donald Trump a white supremacist. She was later suspended for two weeks due to tweets regarding Jerry Jones and the NFL National Anthem controversy. Still, she has a prominent voice at the company despite her pretty standard liberal beliefs.

Again, Schilling was fired. For his outspoken conservative beliefs. Hill has outspoken liberal beliefs. And she has not been fired. It really is as simple as that. But it still gets worse.

According to John Ourand of Sports Business Daily, ESPN has re-hired Keith Olbermann. AGAIN.  (He has been off-and-on with The Worldwide Leader). Olbermann is one of the most far-left personalities in all of sports media. That is an indisputable fact. And in the humble opinion of TTT, he is a deranged lunatic. He wrote a book called Trump is F*cking Crazy. He tweeted this at Ivanka Trump. He has said dozens of times that Trump is a Nazi (side note: Can Americans please go re-read the history books to understand just how evil the Nazis were? Thanks, Henry.) In one such tweet in August 2017, Olbermann told Trump to “go fuck yourself”. Definitely a stable guy.

So how can ESPN claim to be fair and balanced and politically unbiased? To say that ESPN is any of those things is patently, undeniably false. Yet they continue to spue that garbage.

Here’s the deal: Schilling was fired. Hill was not. They re-hired Crazy Keith.

And the company fired hundreds of employees despite their adequate work (without political commentary). This is a result of the loss of revenue and subscribers in the era of Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, and cord-cutting. But no one can tell me that ESPN is not losing at least a couple of thousand of customers because of their liberal slant.

Talented, hard working journalists and producers lost their jobs partly because of a dying business model and partly because of the liberal tweets of their co-workers, who remain on staff.

Even the mainstream media is starting to catch on about ESPN’s hypocrisy.

Not everything is dark and stormy for ESPN. They are trying to create the sports version of Netflix (ESPN +). They face plenty of obstacles, but (as detailed later in this column) they have found ways to bring interesting, out-of-the box programming to its customers.

But as long as Hill and Olbermann are receiving paychecks, ESPN will not be able to shake its perception as a liberal entity.

That’s bad business.

Place Your Bets

Established sports media companies would be foolish not to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of sports betting.

ESPN should go all out. Why shouldn’t they create a channel based solely on betting? What would you rather watch: ESPN 2 or ESPN Gambling? That’s what I thought.

Once more states hop on Nevada and New Jersey’s bandwagon, ESPN and Fox and everyone else should embrace sports betting before other companies arrive to steal those news-hungry consumers away.

It will be incredibly entertaining to see how everything works out. Will online bets be legal? What about prop bets? What about a stock market for gambling? For example, one could sell his preseason purchase of a Atlanta Braves World Series bet for more money than he or she bought it for. Now, that would be endlessly fun.

Everything that happens should be a boon for media. Companies would be wise not to turn down that money.

More News and Notes

  • ESPN and UFC announced the details of its agreement on Wednesday. Disney’s ESPN will pay UFC $1.5 billion over the course of five years. That amounts to $300 million per year, which is a substantial upgrade for UFC, who was reeling in $100 million per year from Fox. For a more detailed analysis, check out The Triple Threat’s Sports Media column from two weeks ago.  
  • Fox decided to forgo another UFC deal in favor of a partnership with the WWE. The deal between the two companies will be for a reported $200 million per year for five years. The network, rather than FS1, will broadcast WWE SmackDown on Friday nights (NBC Universal currently airs the fights on Tuesdays). Sports Illustrated says why those in charge of college football games should take a hint from Fox’s deal with WWE.
  • A brilliant move by ESPN: the Disney-owned company will stream League of Legends competitions on ESPN+ starting in July. It could be a big boost for their subscription web service, which costs $4.99 per month. ESPN+ also will carry the boxing match between Miguel Berchelt and Jonathan Víctor Barros on Saturday June 23rd.
  • Comcast vs. Disney. The fight for The Simpsons, Avatar, and Hulu is officially on. Comcast, aiming for a come-from-behind victory in its pursuit of several 21st Century Fox assets, has gathered about $60 billion in financing from banks. This dog fight is endlessly entertaining. One reason for that is it largely hinges on if the AT&T- Time Warner merger will be upheld. That decision will likely come on June 12th. Rupert Murdoch reportedly denied the original Comcast offer because of the potential regulatory scrutiny. Well, if AT&T-Time Warner goes through, there is no reason Comcast-Fox won’t go through. That’s the reasoning, anyway. We shall see.
  • Cox Media — the parent company of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Palm Beach Post and WPXI — will shutter three college sports websites — SEC Country, Land of 10 and Diehards — on June 30th. Several writers broke the news on Twitter on Wednesday. Seth Emerson, a former Georgia Bulldogs beat reporter for the AJC who now writes for The Athletic, expressed his sorrow for his former employees in a tweet. He later confirmed that DawgNation, the AJC’s hub for UGA sports, will not close.
  • Shannon B. Terry released his predictions for the sports media industry this week. He says that it will not be a good era to be working or owning a small media website. Premium brands and original content will prevail, he said. Terry deserves attention for his ideas; he is one of the most successful in the industry after selling 247 Sports and Rivals for over $100 million.
  • The NBA is enjoying solid ratings during the playoffs. ESPN’s broadcast of the Cavs Game 6 win over the Celtics on Friday garnered a 4.9 rating and over 8 million viewers, according to Nielsen. It was Friday’s most watched program on either cable or the networks. Even still, the numbers could have been better. Of the 12 Conference Final Game 6s over the past decade (in either conference), Friday’s contest ranked just ninth. LeBron, however, continues to attract millions of eyes. The total viewership throughout the series has still been impressive. Through six games, the Cavs-Celtics series has been the most watched Eastern Conference Final since the Heat-Pacers series in 2013. The Warriors-Rockets series, meanwhile, has been huge for TNT. The numbers are not in for Saturday’s Game 6, but Thursday’s Game 5 ranks as the most watched game of the playoffs so far with 9.2 million viewers.

Best sports articles from the past week:

Five bonus articles this week! There was so much quality content in the world of sports journalism that it was too hard to pick just five. The extra articles make up for lackluster links last week. The first three articles last week were superb, but I couldn’t find anything worthwhile for #4 and #5 so I chose subjects that interested me (Ronald Acuña Jr. and Shohei Ohtani) rather than fabulous writing. Sorry if I let you down. Trust me, this week’s offerings will blow you away! ESPN the Magazine had two engrossing stories, but I ranked those articles below the most informative and reasoned report I’ve read yet on the Supreme Court sports betting ruling (even if it is hyper-focused on MLB and MLBPA). Let me know what you think about the proposed “Integrity Fee”! I find the concept fascinating yet slightly baffling. Why institute it now when people in Nevada have been legally allowed to bet on their games for some time now? Katie Strang, based in Detroit, is one of the best writers in the business. She had an incredible series on Larry Nassar the Rapist Animal and now is delving into the Supreme Court’s big ruling. Anyway, without further adieu, here is the definitive, indisputable ranking of the best sports articles from the past week…

  1. How legalized sports betting will impact MLB, the players’ union and labor relations by Katie Strang; The Athletic
  2. Keeping Up With Kohli by Wright Thompson; ESPN
  3. Grounds For Return by Wayne Drehs; ESPN
  4. Modern Romonce by Joe Posnanski; Joe Blogs
  5. PFT Commenter rose from an Internet ‘cesspool’ to podcasting glory. And no one knows who he is. by Rick Maese; Washington Post (Laura Wagner of Deadspin would take issue with the selection of this article on PFT. For a different angle, check out her column which criticizes the Washington Post piece, PFT Commenter, and Barstool Sports. As you would probably guess, I 100% disagree with Wagner. Pardon My Take is hilarious and we need more like PFT and Big Cat. Sometimes – and I include myself in this – we take sports and sports journalism just a little too seriously.)
  6. Four countries, three continents, one dream. On the arrival (and departure) of the unlikeliest Yankee, Ryan Bollinger by Marc Carig; The Athletic
  7. J.D. Martinez and the art and science of the swing by Alex Speier; Boston Globe
  8. How the NBA got its groove back by Kevin Arnovitz and Kevin Pelton; ESPN
  9. How an Italian Disco Hit Became Liverpool’s Champions League Anthem
    by Rory Smith; New York Times (Before Liverpool was defeated by Real Madrid 3-1 in the European Cup Championship on Saturday, the team was riding the wave of an Italian ‘70s song. Check out the inside story in the NYT.)
  10. Out of the gray, Shane Greene wants to tell the whole story by Max Bultman; The Athletic

 

Another Bonus: The Riders by Steve Marsh; Victory Journal. I will be honest I haven’t read this yet, but I have it on my reading list. It’s quite long, but I’ve heard it’s quite good! So you might want to give it a shot.

Have a great week!

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