The Popcorn Stand: Trouble at ESPN
I certainly don’t take pleasure in John Skipper’s troubles. Skipper resigned recently as ESPN’s president stating he has been in a longtime battle with substance abuse. He didn’t state what that substance abuse was and hopefully he’ll conquer his demons.
But while it may be crass to say this, Skipper’s troubles and resignations are symbolic of what a difficult time and year it has been for ESPN. I don’t know anything about Skipper personally or anything about what kind of leader he was, but as those of you who choose to read this Popcorn Stand know, I’ve never thought much of his network.
And it can’t be denied more and more people agree with me. Just in the last year, ESPN has lost 13 million subscribers and has gone through three rounds of layoffs. Do a Google search for “ESPN Sucks” and more than 1.5 million results come up. There’s even a Twitter handle devoted to that movement.
My main problem with ESPN is they don’t just want to show us the games and make everything about themselves. And the way they cover sports has pretty much influenced how everyone else covers sports. The ESPN-ization of sports I call it. The endless sideline interviews and other distractions that make it almost impossible to watch the games any more.
ESPN is finding it more and more difficult to deal with the endless competition it now faces. Each major professional league now has its own network, FOX now has a sports network that’s directly taking on ESPN — and much of its talent in the process — and there are other numerous sports networks such as NBC Sports and CBS Sports. And FOX is just one of a few networks who have poached much of ESPN’s top talent over the years. And I haven’t even mentioned the negative impact the competition of social media is having on ESPN.
ESPN is a cautionary tale to me, though, as many of the factors that are causing ESPN’s troubles are the same factors having a negative impact on my industry, the newspaper industry.
Like I said, I hope Skipper overcomes his troubles. ESPN on the other hand, I don’t think will ever overcome its troubles.
— Charles Whisnand