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Upheaval in the Sports Media Industry

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  • Upheaval in the Sports Media Industry

    ESPN Has Seen the Future of TV and They’re Not Really Into It

    As more fans cut the cord and go mobile, the network is busy protecting its cable-TV money machine.

    The main SportsCenter studio at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., is a blue-lit box. The ceiling is as high as a cathedral’s, and there’s enough floor space to land a helicopter. Screens are everywhere. “We have about 150 different monitors in here and, of course, miles of LED lighting,” says Aaron LaBerge, the sports network’s chief technology officer, during a recent tour. The hosts’ desk faces a wall of screens that jut out and recede like a giant chest of drawers. To one side, there’s a six-panel touchscreen that can slide apart and come together with the push of a button; a more modest 84-inch touchscreen across the way displays an interactive bracket for the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament. The show’s producers can also summon virtual screens from the floor so that, say, the shooting stats of Oregon sophomore Tyler Dorsey can appear to viewers to float miraculously in the middle of the room. “It’s probably one of the most technically sophisticated broadcast and content centers in the world,” LaBerge says of the building that houses this studio and four others.

    Getty Images

    ESPN broke ground on this $175 million, 194,000-square-foot facility, called Digital Center 2, in 2011. It was billed by executives as “future-proof,” capable of adapting to any possible change in the way people watch sports. At the time, ESPN looked indestructible. Its namesake cable channel had just topped 100 million subscribers and was posting record profits for its parent company, Walt Disney Co., even as streaming apps such as Netflix were growing rapidly. Ratings for live sports, unlike almost everything else on TV, were soaring. And ESPN had big games year-round—Monday Night Football, college football bowl games, Major League Baseball’s opening day, and the NBA playoffs, to name a few. A cover story in this magazine in the fall of 2012 dubbed ESPN the “Everywhere Sports Profit Network.”

    Five years later the network’s profits are shrinking, and the 10,000-square-foot SportsCenter studio has already begun to look like a relic. The show’s formula, in which well-fed men in suits present highlights from the day’s games with Middle-American charm, is less of a draw now that the same highlights are readily available on social media. Viewership for the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, a bellwether for the franchise, fell almost 12 percent from 2015 to last year, according to Nielsen. Keith Olbermann, the SportsCenter-host-turned-political-commentator, put it bluntly on a podcast last year: “There’s just no future in it.”

    SportsCenter is only part of the problem. ESPN has lost more than 12 million subscribers since 2011, according to Nielsen, and the viewership erosion seems to be accelerating. Last fall, ESPN lost 621,000 subscribers in a single month, the most in the company’s history. The losses have helped depress Disney’s stock price—down 7 percent since August 2015, despite a big jump in the company’s film revenue thanks to a string of hits, including the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One. John Malone, the cable entrepreneur and chairman of Liberty Media Corp., has publicly suggested that Disney would be better off selling ESPN.

    As subscribers leave the network, and often cable altogether, ESPN is stuck with rising costs for the rights to broadcast games. Programming costs will top $8 billion in 2017, according to media researcher Kagan. Most of that money goes to rights fees through deals that extend into the next decade. Last year profits from Disney’s cable networks, of which ESPN is the largest, fell for the first time in 14 years. The dip was small, about half a percent, but nonetheless alarming. Rich Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG Research, says ESPN has been “over-earning,”with cable customers paying for the channel as part of their subscription bundle, whether they watch it or not. “It’s pretty clear that the years of over-earning are going to end,” says Greenfield, who’s made a name for himself as an ESPN naysayer. “The question is does it end slowly or fast.”

    Greenfield’s analysis is popular, especially with new media types, but it makes people in Bristol touchy. “I’m really tired of being painted as some sort of failing, sinking ship,” SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt told the Washington Post in September. “It’s not like we’re losing money, we’re just not making as much. It’s a giant difference.”

    ESPN still towers over its rivals in cable programming. Short of criminal enterprise, few business models in the world have been as lucrative. A typical cable (or satellite) bundle costs about $100 per household. In simplified form, when a customer sends in a monthly payment, the cable company sends a cut to each channel included in this bundle. Some channels get paid more than others, and ESPN gets the most. Carriers pay an average of $7.21 per month for every customer who gets ESPN as part of a bundle, according to Kagan. Fox News, by comparison, gets $1.41; Bravo, 30˘.

    With almost 90 million homes still getting ESPN, that adds up to $7.8 billion per year. Sister channel ESPN2 chips in an additional billion, and that’s all before ad revenue (roughly $2.6 billion a year, according to Kagan) and revenue from the print magazine and website, which is the most trafficked in sports. Last year, Disney’s cable networks brought in $16.6 billion in revenue and $6.7 billion in operating profit—43 percent of Disney’s total and more than its theme parks and movie studios combined.

    In some respects, the challenges facing ESPN are the same that confront every other media company: Young people simply aren’t consuming cable TV, newspapers, or magazines in the numbers they once did, and digital outlets still aren’t lucrative enough to make up the deficit.

    But while most of ESPN’s TV peers have courted cord cutters—CBS and Turner Broadcasting, for instance, are allowing anyone to watch some of their March Madness games online for free—ESPN’s view cuts against the conventional wisdom in new media. “Everything we do supports the pay television business,” says John Kosner, the network’s head of digital and print media. The strategy, simply put: Defend the cable-TV bundle at all costs.

    On a Tuesday in late March, the big news in the SportsCenter studio is New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey. After disappearing during the postgame chaos in early February, it turned up in the possession of a media executive in Mexico. ESPN has been chewing over the news all morning. “I’m sort of like, ‘Is this really a story?’ ” says Rob King, a senior vice president responsible for SportsCenter and ESPN’s news operation. “But it’s a story.”

    Live Sports Costs You. Big League

    National Football League/Monday Night Football
    Annual cost:
    $1.9 billion
    Term: 2014–21

    National Basketball Association
    Annual cost:
    $1.4 billion
    Term: 2016–25

    Major League Baseball
    Annual cost:
    $700 million
    Term: 2014–21

    College Football Playoffs (and Other Bowl Games)
    Annual cost:
    $608 million
    Term: 2015–26

    Southeastern Conference
    Annual cost:
    $300 million
    Term: 2014–34

    Atlantic Coast Conference
    Annual cost:
    $240 million
    Term: 2012–27

    Major League Soccer
    Annual cost:
    $75 million
    Term: 2015–22

    U.S. Open Tennis
    Annual cost:
    $75 million
    Term: 2015–25

    Texas Longhorn Network
    Annual cost:
    $15 million
    Term: 2011-31

    At a standing desk in a corner office, King, 54, is staring at a screen that displays what looks like a stock chart. It’s ESPN’s “Producer Panel,” custom software for tracking what viewers are talking about on social media. A blue line represents the Brady story; a yellow one represents the upset by South Carolina over Duke in the college basketball tournament. King hits a few keys and adds Houston Rockets guard James Harden to the mix of trending topics. Harden made news the day before by wading into a debate about rest for NBA players; today he’s gaining ground on the missing jersey saga, which makes him prime fodder for the evening broadcast.

    “One of the cool things about all this digital disruption is that you can know things about your fans,” says King, a former newspaper editor and 13-year veteran of ESPN who took over SportsCenter in 2014. “You don’t have to guess so much.” If you, loyal ESPN viewer, have ever sat in your living room wondering why you’re being subjected to yet another Talmudic discussion of “Deflategate,” King would argue it’s because that’s what you asked for.

    Although he concedes that sometimes this approach to “social listening,” as he calls it, can lead to stories that seem overcooked, King points out that if ESPN ignores what’s happening on social media, it will simply lose viewers to Twitter and Facebook. “To me, it’s about respecting the audience,” he says. “Because they’re more sophisticated, and more ready to start digging into their own storylines, than we give them credit for.”

    King’s team began using the social media monitoring software last year as part of a strategy to move SportsCenter, which broadcasts live for 14 hours a day, away from a commodity newscast involving scores and highlights and toward a chattier format that more closely resembles talk radio and cable news. In 2015 he installed Van Pelt, one of ESPN’s radio stars, in the midnight slot, as a competitor to traditional late-night fare. Along with highlights and updates, Van Pelt delivers straight-to-camera commentary ŕ la Jon Stewart. If Van Pelt thinks that, say, too many NFL teams are relocating, he says so. Viewership of the midnight SportsCenter is up about 6 percent since 2015, according to Nielsen, even as other editions have seen their audiences shrink.

    Earlier this year, ESPN expanded the experiment, replacing the generic 6 p.m. SportsCenter with a new edition anchored by Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, formerly hosts of the ESPN2 show His & Hers. Smith and Hill—the show’s first African American anchor team—devote long segments to athlete interviews that stray from the usual tell-me-about-that-play territory. “We are layering in personality as a defining character of a show,” King says. “We desire to make sure you have this relationship with the brand where you think, Yeah, those are my folks.”

    To King, and to many in Bristol, SportsCenter’s evolution is an example of how ESPN has adapted to the future better than most media companies. “We actually accepted digital distribution as a natural course many, many years ago,” King says. “You’re not talking to a bunch of people who are wringing their hands over the notion that six months from now, somebody might develop a killer app and we have to figure out how to get into it.”

    To illustrate his point, King searches in the clutter on his desk and picks up a black-and-red Sanyo flip phone with an ESPN logo above a 1-inch screen. The phone, which ESPN introduced in 2006 as part of a mobile plan that included scores and highlights, is often cited by outsiders as the height of corporate embarrassment. The device cost $150 million to develop, including a $30 million Super Bowl ad, and attracted a grand total of 30,000 customers. ESPN scrapped it after seven months, less than a year before Apple introduced the iPhone. According to the 2011 oral history, Those Guys Have All the Fun, ESPN’s then-President George Bodenheimer approached Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer (and Disney board member) Steve Jobs at a Disney board meeting in 2006. “Your phone is the dumbest f---ing idea I have ever heard,” Jobs said.

    On the other hand, that Super Bowl ad—in which a fan walks zombie-like through a city while staring at his phone, immersing himself in a world full of Formula One, basketball, bass fishing, and every other sport imaginable—foreshadowed how today’s fans consume sports. King sees the phone as evidence that ESPN, which initially thrived in the 1980s by embracing the unproven new medium of cable TV, is still in innovation mode. “There is a conventional wisdom that ESPN is going to be somehow disrupted by everybody else,” says Kosner. “But most of these things are opportunities.”

    The Entertainment and Sports Programming Network first went on air on a Friday night in 1979. That evening’s lineup, beamed across the country via an RCA satellite, included the very first episode of SportsCenter and a slow-pitch softball game between the Kentucky Bourbons and the Milwaukee Schlitz. The network showed some live college sports, as well as reruns, and niche fare such as bowling and billiards, until it landed a deal with the NBA in 1982. The following year, then-CEO Bill Grimes persuaded Cablevision to pay a dime per household per month for the channel. By 1996 those fees had grown, and ESPN was calling itself “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

    As sports ratings rose and ratings for everything else fell, networks of all stripes began bidding for the rights to games. ESPN spent more and more to stay ahead of the competition. “In a world where you have the ability to control when you watch something, live sports breaks through in a way that’s only going to continue to become more valuable,” John Skipper, then an ESPN executive who’s now the network’s president, told Variety in 2011. Since then, ESPN has agreed to pay $1.9 billion per year for Monday Night Football, $1.4 billion for NBA games, $700 million for MLB, and more than $1 billion for college football and basketball. To keep pace with the rising costs, Skipper negotiated higher fees from carriers.

    The aggressiveness backfired. To make the deals, according to SportsBusiness Journal, Skipper agreed to relax the demand that carriers include ESPN in almost all of their bundles. Carriers, in turn, began offering customers “skinny bundles” that didn’t include the network. Millions of subscribers defected. On an investor call in November, Disney CEO Bob Iger called SBJ’s reporting “not factually correct.”

    ESPN has made some modest efforts to cut costs. It jettisoned 300 of its 8,000 employees in 2015 and is expected to let the contracts of some of its on-camera talent expire this year. But mostly it’s tried to make up for subscriber losses elsewhere. “We spend a lot of time talking about the U.S. television industry, but the smartphone market worldwide has two and a half billion people,” says Kosner, the digital and print media chief. “That gives us a chance to create an indispensable sports service for anybody, anywhere in the world.” Kosner is planning to roll out a Netflix-like interface for a section of the ESPN app that’s limited to cable customers. It will be customized to user tastes and will put live games side by side with episodes of Van Pelt’s show and ESPN’s documentaries, such as the Academy Award-winning O.J.: Made in America. “The beauty of Netflixto me is that they’ve said, ‘We’re going to make our best stuff available to you anytime you want it,’ ” Kosner says. “They do it brilliantly, but it’s not rocket science.”

    ESPN is also trying to make it easier for viewers at home to see everything that comes with their cable or satellite subscription. In a long, windowless room in the Bristol complex—a sort of man-cave laboratory—a row of couches faces six huge flatscreen TVs. LaBerge, the CTO, demonstrates how customers with a DirecTV set-top box can, with a tap of the remote, access a menu that offers all of the company’s channels (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN News, etc.), plus an array of internet streaming options, including extra games, replays, and the O.J. documentary. In the future, says LaBerge, the network will tailor this menu to a specific viewer’s interests. “It could focus on your favorite teams, on things that we know you like.”

    Rather than trying to reinvent the business model, ESPN’s futurists have focused on improving the experience for cable viewers. The Pylon Cam, for example, packs digital cameras into the football end zone markers to make it easier for viewers to see if a touchdown has been scored. There’s also something called Project Jarvis, named after the computer interface in Iron Man. Still in development, Jarvis is a large glass panel that will allow SportsCenter hosts to face the camera while they manipulate graphics via touchscreen. Today, if hosts want to, say, fill out an NCAA bracket on TV, they have to turn their backs to the audience. Jarvis involves motion trackers, lasers, and an ultraviolet projector. It may seem like a lot of effort to spare SportsCenter anchors a crick in the neck, but LaBerge says it’s worth it. “If we perfected it,” he says, “it would be used all the time.”

    The executive consensus in Bristol is that the threat from cord cutting is greatly exaggerated. Although the audience for traditional satellite and cable is declining, there’s a raft of new services—including Google’s YouTube TV, Dish Network’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, and a soon-to-be-launched one from Hulu—that are offering channel packages that look suspiciously like cable bundles, and that uniformly include ESPN. Aimed at millennials, these online services are designed for smartphones and devices such as Roku and AppleTV and cost from $20 to $50 a month. Even though these plans are cheaper than a traditional cable subscription, ESPN gets paid its usual $7 per subscriber by Google and the other newcomers, according to people with knowledge of the agreements. So far, more than a million subscribers have signed up, a figure not yet reflected in Nielsen data. “We think that this wave that we are seeing is really a signal of what is to come, and what the future will be,” Iger said on a February earnings call.

    Other media companies, most notably HBO, have confronted cord cutting by offering their programming “over the top,” which is TV-speak for “on the internet.” More than 2 million people pay $15 a month for access to the HBO Now app, but that strategy doesn’t translate to ESPN. The network’s programming costs are far greater than those of HBO—the budget for an entire season of Game of Thrones costs around $100 million, or less than what ESPN pays for the rights to air a single Monday Night Football game—and ESPN’s customers are accustomed to getting the network at no additional charge as part of their cable package. If ESPN were to charge $15 a month for a standalone streaming channel, it would need more than 43 million subscribers to match the money it collects from cable carriers. HBO has about 35 million total subscribers in the U.S., including cable and over the top.

    Last August, Disney made a more dramatic move, paying $1 billion for a one-third stake in BAMTech, a streaming business spun off by Major League Baseball that specializes in distributing live events for sports leagues and other media companies. The same day, Disney said BAMTech would launch ESPN’s first standalone subscription service. The announcement, followed by MLB and Disney’s decision to hire Michael Paull, the former head of Inc.’s digital video unit, to oversee BAMTech, raised the prospect that ESPN would finally offer its flagship channel to customers outside a traditional cable bundle.

    Although ESPN executives acknowledge that this could happen years from now if cable continues to decline, the plan for now is more modest. In February, Iger characterized the new service, which doesn’t yet have a name, as “an add-on or adjunct product that consumers can buy on top of what is their normal multichannel package.” Executives at both ESPN and MLB say the offering will likely include a mix of baseball and hockey games—though not the marquee matchups that appear on national telecasts today—as well as competitive video gaming, international sports such as cricket and rugby, and college football and basketball games from outside the major conferences. “I think it’s a learning exercise more than anything,” says BTIG’s Greenfield. “This is really them starting to learn the direct-to-consumer business and dealing with customer service, churn, retention, and marketing.”

    If a combination of hockey, low-wattage college sports, and cricket doesn’t quite seem worthy of the Worldwide Leader in Sports, that’s by design: ESPN doesn’t want its new product to draw viewers away from its very profitable cable channel. And, as Kosner notes, when ESPN began broadcasting in 1979, plenty of people doubted whether anyone would want to watch bowling at two in the morning. “I was in college when ESPN started,” he says. “I felt sorry for the people working there.”

    He’s learned since then, he says, not to underestimate the appetites of sports fans. “There are tons and tons of sporting events available around the world that don’t make sense on U.S. basic cable. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a significant interest in them.”

  • #2
    Maybe cable could lower it's prices, but greed makes it just too darn hard. Satellite tv isn't any better as far as price is concerned.
    Want to learn everything about the Texans cap? There is no better site out there than this one. Thanks Troy. Amazing work buddy!


    • #3
      ESPN's looming layoffs have anxious on-air talent mulling giveback options

      Desperate times call for desperate measures. Some ESPN anchors fearing the loss of their jobs are proactively asking management if they can cut their salaries, sources tell Sporting News.

      The move to renegotiate existing contracts makes some sense. ESPN is poised to lay off or buy out dozens of your favorite ‘"SportsCenter” anchors, reporters, commentators and online writers over the coming days and weeks.

      Rather than waiting for the Turk to come knocking on Cutdown Day, some on-air personnel, and/or their agents, are asking if they can keep their job in exchange for reduced pay.

      Their pitch: They love ESPN. They don’t want to leave. They’re willing to take one for the team, even if it means less cash and exposure at the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

      It's worth a shot, but it remains to be seen how successful this negotiating move will be. ESPN has lost 12 million subscribers over the past five years, reducing its footprint to 88 million homes from a high of 100 million. The days of half-measures are over. The layoffs are beginning.

      On Monday, Paul Kuharsky, the respected ESPN staff writer covering the NFL's Titans, confirmed he'd been given his walking papers. He could be the first among 30 or so staff writers whose contracts won't be renewed, said sources:
      Knew cuts were coming. Sad to say nine great years at ESPN end for me in July. Please stay tuned to @Midday180.

      — Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) April 24, 2017
      With parent Disney and Wall Street looking on, ESPN management is playing hardball.

      The network is looking to slash tens of millions of dollars in salary costs. Unlike October 2015 — when ESPN pink-slipped 300 behind-the-scene producers, directors and staffers — this downsizing will target the 1,000-plus TV/radio anchors, reporters, commentators and online reporters who constitute the public face of ESPN.

      The cuts could kick in before Disney's fiscal second quarter earnings call on May 9 and ESPN's glitzy upfront presentation to Madison Avenue ad buyers on May 16.

      That's where the company is expected to announce the new Mike Greenberg solo show on ESPN that will end the 17-year TV partnership between Greenberg and "Mike & Mike in the Morning" partner Mike Golic on ESPN2.

      “ESPN is calling this a ‘right-sizing,'” said one source. “They’re trying to focus on their core on-air talent and get the maximum amount out of them, just like everybody else does."

      The looming layoffs have set off a "panic of biblical proportions" among on-air talent. Many of the anchors/analysts in danger of losing their jobs are under contract, some for multiple years, said sources.

      ESPN is making some of these employees an offer: They can accept 50 percent of the money remaining on their deals and walk away free as birds, or they can hold out for every penny owed, in which case they’ll probably benched and rendered largely invisible on ESPN TV/radio/digital media platforms moving forward.

      That's a tough call for on-air talent used to guaranteed TV/Radio exposure and annual raises, said sources. Their decisions may depend on their age and experience, said one source.

      "The 30-somethings may look at being off TV/radio as a fate worse than death," said another source. "The 50-somethings, on the other hand, might enjoy a couple of years' vacation courtesy of ESPN."

      Even while ESPN is in cost-cutting mode, it's still on the hunt for new talent, especially at the expense of rival Fox Sports 1, led by ex-ESPN phenom Jamie Horowitz.

      No less than ESPN president John Skipper himself has tried to recruit FS1 rising star Katie Nolan, host of "Garbage Time," sources told Sporting News. ESPN also tried to hire back ex-ESPNer Charissa Thompson for Chris Berman's anchor post on "Sunday NFL Countdown" before handing the job to Samantha Ponder.

      It's easy to forget that ESPN's famous anchors are in our home and on our TV screens almost every day. The suspense around who will stay and who will go has generated enormous national interest among sports media reporters and readers.

      Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated was first to report that ESPN would launch "significant" cuts on the "talent side." ESPN book author James Andrew Miller then told Deitsch on an SI podcast he expected 40 to 50 on-air personalities to lose their jobs.

      Last week, Daniel Roberts of Yahoo Finance reported the axe would mostly fall between May 1 and May 9. His story has drawn nearly 3,000 comments, testifying to fan passions about ESPN and its talent.
      man, like 50% of the 3,000 comments on our story about ESPN layoffs are people saying get rid of Smith and Hill..

      — Daniel Roberts (@readDanwrite) April 24, 2017
      Some of the ESPN veterans facing the layoffs are remarkably sanguine. Anchor John Buccigross, whose contract expires July 1, told Sporting News in an exclusive interview that he's ready for whatever decision management hands down.

      "I'm not stressed," said Buccigross, 51, who joined ESPN in 1996. "Whatever happens, happens."

      Politically conservative media outlets such as Breitbart have attacked ESPN as a bunch of flaming liberals. They argue the layoffs are proof the WWL's politically correct chickens are finally coming home to roost.

      A personal note: Having lived through many layoffs in the newspaper/magazine business, I hope many of these people can save their jobs. What's surprising, and saddening, is that this is happening at ESPN.

      For years, we thought those at ESPN were the lucky few, immune from the cyclone battering the media industry, but now it's their turn. Unfortunately.

      My best wishes to all of them in this rotten media environment.


      • #4
        Ed Werder @Edwerderespn
        After 17 years reporting on #NFL, I've been informed that I'm being laid off by ESPN effective immediately. I have no plans to retire


        • #5
          ESPN Firing Over A Hundred Employees Today

          ESPN is firing over 100 employees today as its business continues to collapse.

          Outkick The Coverage
          For several years I have been writing on this site about the coming business implosion at ESPN. Today, with the announcement that over 100 on air talent at ESPN were being let go, many will finally come to realize what Outkick readers have read here for the past several years -- ESPN's business model is fundamentally broken and there is no saving it. The continuing collapse of ESPN is the biggest story in sports -- the sub-prime mortgage crisis with bouncing balls.

          I don't say that to gloat over ESPN employees who lost their jobs today -- many of them are outstanding people who regularly read this site or listen to our Outkick broadcasts, some of them are also good friends -- and I know exactly how they feel today because I have been fired before in sports media too. Six years ago I, along with the entire staff, was fired from FanHouse. That firing is what led me to found Outkick. I decided on that day that I would never allow anyone else to control my success or failure in this business. I took a risk and started Outkick and it has been the best business decision I ever made. It's a cliche, but when one door closes another door really does open. That goes for anyone who loses a job for any reason, it sucks, but it doesn't define you.

          The people being fired at ESPN today aren't being fired because they are bad at their jobs, they're being fired because ESPN's business is collapsing. That collapse has been aided by ESPN's absurd decision to turn into MSESPN, a left wing sports network, but that's more a symptom of the collapse than it is a cause of the collapse. ESPN's business is collapsing and the network is desperately trying to find a way to stay above water. You know how a drowning person flails in the water before slipping under? ESPN's left wing shift is that flailing. They think going left wing will save them. The reality is the opposite, ESPN going left wing was like giving a drowning person a big rock to hold and thinking it would keep them from drowning. Instead, it just made them sink even faster.

          That's why ratings are down 16% this year compared to last year and viewers are abandoning the network in droves.

          Middle America wants to pop a beer and listen to sports talk, they don't want to be lectured about why Caitlyn Jenner is a hero, Michael Sam is the new Jackie Robinson of sports, and Colin Kaepernick is the Rosa Parks of football. ESPN made the mistake of trying to make liberal social media losers happy and as a result lost millions of viewers.

          ESPN has spent the past several years disputing all of my columns about their business imploding, sending one person after another, and one website after another in wave after wave to argue that I'm wrong, that my numbers are off, that their business remains sound. As recently as seven weeks ago the head of ESPN PR was Tweeting me about this Outkick article, "Your number is vastly inaccurate, click-chasing, and irresponsible."
          Your number is vastly inaccurate, click-chasing and irresponsible.

          — Chris LaPlaca (@espn_chris) March 6, 2017
          Today I fired back at him.
          Care to retract your "vastly inaccurate, click-chasing and irresponsible" Tweet to me?

          — Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) April 26, 2017
          If anything the only way I was "wildly inaccurate" was by underestimating how many people at ESPN were going to be fired.

          As with most big stories Outkick has covered -- conference expansion, the fake Missouri protests, the Peyton Manning mooning incident, Ryan Lochte's peeing outside and being robbed -- this site has been 100% right and the worldwide leader in sports has been 100% wrong. That's why Outkick is growing like gangbusters and ESPN is firing people left and right.

          The simple truth of the matter is this -- ESPN spent way too much on sports rights just as its cable and satellite subscriptions began to collapse. On track for $8 billion in programming costs in 2017, ESPN will rack up its 15 millionth lost subscriber since 2011. Every single day so far in 2017 over 10,000 people have left ESPN. The numbers are astonishing and the collapse is rapid. All those lost subscribers add up to big money -- that's over $1.3 billion a year in money that comes off ESPN's books every year. And ESPN is on the hook for billions and billions a year for all the years ahead. That's guaranteed payments to leagues that ESPN can't escape no matter how many employees it fires.

          As I've written before, if the current subscriber loss trajectory keeps up ESPN will begin losing money by 2021. And if the subscriber losses accelerate it will happen even sooner than that.

          The collapse of the cable bundle is a huge story that will impact every cable channel, but ESPN stands to lose more by itself than 100 other cable channels combined. That's because ESPN standing alone costs more than 100 channels on many cable and satellite packages. ESPN by itself costs nearly five times the second most expensive channel on cable. ESPN's in infinitely worse shape than any other cable network out there too because it makes more than any other channel off the current business model and because those channels don't have the billions in fixed costs that ESPN does. If CNN makes less money on subscriber revenue, they can spend less on news gathering. If AMC makes less money in subscriber fees, they'll pay for fewer shows, but ESPN's entire business is predicated on the billions they owe for sports rights every year into the foreseeable future.

          Moreover, the sports businesses of Fox, NBC, and CBS are more protected because the vast majority of their best games are all on network TV, which may well return to primacy when it comes to sports. Look at the roster of games that Fox, NBC, and CBS have -- virtually all of the top draws air on the main broadcast networks. The NFL's AFC and NFC packages, the World Series, the Super Bowl, the SEC game of the week, the best college football games in other conferences, Sunday Night Football, the big Olympic events, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the Masters, all air on "free" TV. ESPN -- and Turner -- are the only two networks that put their biggest sporting events on cable. (The college football playoff, Monday Night Football, and most of the NBA's Eastern Conference playoffs air on ESPN, which is how ESPN justifies its massive cable and satellite subscription fees. Turner carries the majority of the NCAA Tournament games on cable as well.)

          In theory it would make more sense for ESPN to just rely on ABC and switch its biggest games to that network, but the problem is, it can't. Not under the existing television contracts which promise cable and satellite companies exclusive big events on ESPN to justify the enormous cable and satellite fees. That's why all this cost cutting is happening -- because ESPN gambled that sports broadcast rights would ensure that Fox and NBC and CBS never dented the worldwide leader in sports. Instead, ESPN built a moat of programming rights to surround the ESPN castle and ensure that the worldwide leader would never be challenged. Unfortunately that moat has flooded its business. ESPN is dying as a business because it thought Mike Conley deserved $30 million a year to play basketball.

          From 1979 to 2011 ESPN was part of the greatest business in the history of media. But from 2011 on we're going to witness the biggest media collapse since AOL. It's creative destruction writ large and ESPN is a dead company walking. Today sucks for many employees, but it was inevitable because the sports rights bubble has burst and the fallout is really just beginning.


          • #6
            Jayson Stark @jaysonst
            For 17 yrs I've had a dream job covering baseball for ESPN. Today is my last day. Thanks to all the great people at ESPN, MLB & all of you!


            • #7
              We cut the chord five years ago. We miss live local sports but get the Texans with an antenna. We get Hulu and Netflix for 17 dollars a month and get 90 percent of what we want to watch. Directv got our bill wrong 12 months in a row before we cut the chord. Bad customer service and horrible prices equals fewer customers.


              • #8
                SportsCenter To Increase Digital Emphasis, Revise TV Lineup

                SportsCenter Right Now Expands Brand’s Digital, TV Presence

                SportsCenter, ESPN’s flagship since 1979, will launch a series of enhancements beginning next month and continuing through early 2018.

                The new SportsCenter Right Now initiative will bring news updates to both digital and television platforms during daytime hours as well as during halftime of televised prime-time sporting events. And with ESPN re-signing many popular SportsCenter anchors to new, multiyear deals, the television lineup also will be revised.

                All enhancements are part of the continued expansion of the multiplatform SportsCenter brand to better serve sports fans and their changing viewing habits. More updates will be announced later.

                SportsCenter seeks to serve sports fans with singular talent, exceptional news coverage and unprecedented accessibility,” said Rob King, ESPN senior vice president, SportsCenter and News. “We plan to be essential when fans awaken, exhaustive whenever fans need a highlight, score or news update, and entertaining pre-game, in-game and postgame.

                “As our audience and its needs change, we change to serve those fans and meet their needs. We always have, and we always will.”

                New SportsCenter Updates Daily in ESPN/ESPN2 Daytime and in Prime Time Games

                Beginning in late August, SportsCenter will start producing up-to-the-minute news updates that will be seen on both digital and television platforms. SportsCenter Right Now will appear multiple times per hour on and in the new home-screen video player on the ESPN App. Content will be produced specifically for the digital platforms, with the content topics determined by the use of real-time analytics to ensure that the updates are centered on the questions and conversations in which sports fans are most passionately engaged.

                This comes as SportsCenter’s presence has already been growing on digital products. So far in 2017, sports fans have logged an average of 2.9 million views of SportsCenter videos per day on ESPN digital platforms, with nearly 380 million total SportsCenter video views on ESPN digital platforms to date this year. Additionally, fans have logged some 33.4 million hours of time streaming SportsCenter on WatchESPN and the ESPN App.

                In addition to the digital platforms, SportsCenter Right Now updates will air twice hourly within ESPN daytime programming. The updates will begin August 28 in First Take and will expand in placement and frequency over the following months.

                When fully deployed, the television updates will run between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET and the digital updates will be produced between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Frequency and times could be adjusted with breaking news. Featuring SportsCenter anchors including Toni Collins, the TV and digital updates will originate from SportsCenter’s multi-faceted studio in ESPN’s state-of-the-art production and data management facility, Digital Center-2.

                SportsCenter Right Now also will be integrated into the live telecasts of some of the biggest prime-time sporting events on ESPN and ABC with reports that will air during halftime of events such as ESPN’s Monday Night Football, the NBA Finals on ABC, ABC Saturday Night Football and more. As part of ESPN’s normal mix of halftime interviews and game analysis, SportsCenter anchors including Scott Van Pelt, Kenny Mayne, Steve Levy, Neil Everett, Stan Verrett and others will present fast-paced segments designed to entertain and inform fans and entice them to enjoy SportsCenter’s unique postgame and late-night coverage. The halftime segments will begin during the upcoming college football season.

                SportsCenter on TV Expands Emphasis on Personality-Driven Programs

                Following the launches of SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt (midnight ET) in 2015 and SC6 with Michael and Jemele (6 p.m. ET with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill) earlier this year, SportsCenter continues its emphasis on personality-driven programs with some lineup changes.

                Longtime SportsCenter anchors Steve Levy, Kenny Mayne, John Anderson and John Buccigross have signed new deals to continue with ESPN and will be the hosts of the 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter. For the first time in nearly a decade, Mayne will anchor from ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., studios on a recurring basis beginning June 5. Two of the four will host most weeknight editions of the program as well as some weekends, and the new deals assure the creative core of SportsCenter’s signature postgame experience will remain intact for years to come.

                Also returning to Bristol will be Sage Steele, who has signed a new, multiyear deal and beginning in late August will anchor SportsCenter:AM from 7-10 a.m. ET Monday-Thursday. Steele also will continue to lead SportsCenter on the Road coverage from major events such as the Super Bowl, the Masters, the NBA Finals, Veterans Day and more.

                SportsCenter:AM will now be seven days a week, with Kevin Negandhi, Jay Harris, Randy Scott, Elle Duncan and Matt Barrie joining Steele as anchors. The Friday-Sunday shows will focus on the big sports action of the weekend and will identify fun, offbeat locations for weekend SportsCenter on the Roadprograms.

                Neil Everett and Stan Verrett will continue to anchor the 1 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter, which originates from ESPN’s Los Angeles studios and re-airs during the overnight hours, with Mayne and others filling in as needed.

                As part of a new deal to remain with ESPN, Hannah Storm, currently the host of the 10 a.m. ET SportsCenter, will have a new, prominent role, including hosting prime-time specials and providing high impact journalistic pieces to key properties such as E:60 and SportsCenter.

                Sarina Morales, formerly a contributor to SportsCenter:AM, is now contributing to all editions of SportsCenter as a Fan Correspondent, finding fun and unusual ways that fans express their love for sports.

                Content from SportsCenter Right Now will also enhance the brand’s already-strong social media presence, where it is the most social television program so far this year, according to data from Shareablee. Across major social platforms SportsCenter has industry-leading reach, with more than 32 million followers on Twitter, nearly 13 million “likes” on Facebook and 9.2 million Instagram followers. Additionally, SportsCenter is a core part of ESPN’s content on its YouTube channel and in ESPN’s daily presence on Snapchat Discover, which is among the most popular of any brand.

                The emphasis on personality for SportsCenter programs has resulted in strong performances across social media platforms. For instance, the SC6 video paying tribute to the TV program “A Different World” had more than one million views, more than 8,500 re-tweets and more than 14,000 likes on Twitter as well as more than one million views on Facebook between the pages of Hill and Smith. Videos from SC6 also appear on, ESPN’s multimedia content platform focused on the intersection of sports, race and culture.

                SportsCenter will continue to air on ESPNEWS from 7-11 p.m. on most weeknights. For the remainder of 2017, it also will continue to air on weekdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., including SportsCenter Coast to Coast. More details, including additional anchor assignments, will be announced at a later time.
                Man, I see so much fail in that strategic plan...
                "produced specifically for the digital platforms, with the content topics determined by the use of real-time analytics to ensure that the updates are centered on the questions and conversations in which sports fans are most passionately engaged."

                "emphasis on personality-driven programs"

                "with more than 32 million followers on Twitter, nearly 13 million “likes” on Facebook and 9.2 million Instagram followers. Additionally, SportsCenter is a core part of ESPN’s content on its YouTube channel and in ESPN’s daily presence on Snapchat Discover"
                Last edited by H2O4me; 1 week ago.


                • #9
                  Media Circus: Analyzing layoffs of three Cowboys reporters

                  Ed Werder, Jean-Jaques Taylor and Charean Williams had a collective Dallas Cowboys braintrust of more than 35 years. Then all three were laid off this off-season.
                  This is an indisputable fact: The Dallas Cowboys are the most popular television team in the NFL, which makes them the most popular team in professional sports (in the U.S.) based on viewership numbers. They are by far the most broadcast NFL team around the country and sports fans have definitive feelings about them, a mix of love and hate but never indifference.

                  That the Cowboys sit near the top of the sports public consciousness made for an odd juxtaposition when the news came down that three prominent and award-winning sports reporters with long ties to covering the Cowboys—Jean-Jacques Taylor (ESPN), Ed Werder (ESPN) and Charean Williams ([/I]Fort Worth Star-Telegram[I])—were part of layoffs at their organizations. Frankly, it makes no sense on face. Why would you let go of experienced reporters with deep contacts and insight into arguably the most popular team in professional sports?

                  With that in mind, last week I asked Taylor, Werder and Williams if they would answer some questions on their employment status in relation to their Cowboys coverage. They were incredibly honest and I appreciate their time.

                  Obviously no one is immune to layoffs, but did you believe your association with the Cowboys would have provided some employment safety for you?

                  Taylor: I vacillated over that throughout my last year at ESPN because I could never, ever get a handle on it. I mean, I knew the Cowboys had more page views than any other team except the Patriots, but I also knew every time you looked around somebody was coming to town to do a story whether it was from The Magazine or Undefeated or Bill Barnwell, Mike Sando or Kevin Seifert, all talented dudes who have a unique perspective on the NFL. So you’re trying to figure out your value because, maybe, they think they can get enough from Todd Archer, who’s terrific, and all of the supplemental coverage that they don’t need me, per se. Even though I had more institutional knowledge on the beat than virtually anybody else, you wonder how much it’s respected or if people even care. Plus, my role was changing seemingly every year because that’s the ESPN way. I have no problem with change because it can be good and it forces you to grow, but when you change as often as ESPN changes it’s difficult to get a good feel for whether you’re giving your bosses exactly what they want. Plus, the Cowboys beat is the only one that had two reporters last year. If you’re trying to cut costs, it makes sense pragmatically to cut the beat that has two reporters.

                  Werder: With the layoffs approaching, I was warned that everyone was at risk and that quality of work was not going to be a factor. In my most recent contract negotiations, I made getting as many years as possible my primary objective to protect my family. I thought doing high-level work covering games and in-studio on ESPN's most important property made it unlikely I would lose my job. I believed my experience and performance on the Cowboys created another layer of protection because I know my contact list and reputation with people in and around the organization allow me to consistently compete for news and to uniquely and accurately interpret Cowboys moves. I know from experience the zest there is in Bristol for anything on the Cowboys. When I would arrive in Bristol on Monday evening from my weekend game site, I invariably had multiple requests for Cowboys topics on SportsCenter and the NFL shows.

                  Williams: I believed I was in the safest spot at the paper. I mean, it's America's Team. Can you have too many people covering the biggest beat in town? You could add every other sport that's here, and together they wouldn't equal the interest or generate the hits the Cowboys do.

                  How long have you covered the Cowboys?

                  Taylor: I made the jump from lead high school reporter and backup Texas Rangers reporter to the Cowboys’ beat right before training camp in 1995. My first partner? Ed Werder. I covered the Cowboys’ beat from 1995 through 2006, spanning [coaches] Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey, Dave Campo and Bill Parcells. I became a general columnist just before the start of the 2007 season and continued covering the Cowboys, in large part, just with a different role and perspective. Not much changed when I went to ESPN in August of 2011. Essentially, I’ve been covering the Cowboys in some way, shape or form for the last 21 years.

                  Werder: I first moved to the DFW market to cover the Cowboys for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1989, just after Jerry Jones purchased the team, hired Jimmy Johnson and they drafted Troy Aikman. The timing wasn't coincidental. Being up against the staff and resources of The Dallas Morning News was ominous under any circumstances but I felt I could compete as long as I wasn't disadvantaged as I would have been had the previous hierarchy remained. I wasn't up against 29 years of relationships. Everyone was starting over with Jerry and Jimmy. I covered that one season, then left for a different opportunity but returned to the market with the Morning News in 1992—the first Super Bowl season for the new regime. We have been in DFW ever since. I always say it's because I'm centrally located, with an American Airlines hub and Jerry's Football Circus in my backyard. I think I've always worked hard, was determined to achieve whatever my talent in journalism would allow, but I doubt I would have had the career I've enjoyed for so long if I had never covered the Cowboys beat, and I actually turned the job down initially to remain in Denver! The interest in the Cowboys is mostly endless, win or lose, love them or hate them. Every national media person considers the Cowboys their first priority, even when I worked the beat for the papers the national writers from New York would call and ask me for insight or quotes. I remember telling Gary Myers to just worry about covering Phil Simms!

                  Williams: I covered them for 17-plus seasons.

                  How much of a surprise was it when management told you they were letting you go?

                  Taylor: I can’t say I was surprised. I was in the last year of my contract, I was making a nice salary and everything I’ve read for a year has indicated ESPN was going to have some layoffs. I’m a pragmatist, so I started preparing for the possibility as soon as I entered the final year of my contract. In fact, I told my wife before I went to Bristol for the NFL Nation summit last April that I was going to get an answer on my future during my three-day visit. I’m a planner by nature, so I created Plan A and Plan B. Both are cool. It was just a matter of which plan my wife and I were going to put in place after I returned from Bristol.

                  Werder: I can't recall a time when I've been more shocked even though it seems there were some hints—a young, bilingual reporter from South Florida was hired and relocated to Dallas—although a manager met and assured me that reporter would not impact my assignments. The home studio I had since being promoted to NFL Insider was removed because it was costly and wasn't being used, and my request to own my podcast rights was granted. But I was shocked, for sure. I still can't believe my reporting ability and experience were not valued as I thought they should be. But I've been discussing opportunities I never thought attainable so I'm emotionally moving in that direction.

                  Williams: I don't know that layoffs are a surprise in our business, but I suspect it's always a surprise when it's you. My story could be "The Blind Side Part II" obviously for different reasons than The Blind Side.

                  How surprised were you when you learned the fate of the other people on this panel, and why?

                  Taylor: Shocked. We all know Ed is one of the best reporters in the country, as dogged a reporter and news gatherer that you’ll ever find. He’s one of the reasons I became as good as I was covering the beat because he taught me that not getting the story wasn’t an option. And on the rare occasion you did get beat, you had to own the story from the point forward. He's so good I never even really considered that he could or would get laid off. Who doesn’t want that guy as part of their coverage team? I was equally shocked when Charean was laid off. She’s one of the most well-respected reporters in the country. She had to be to become the first woman to be elected president of the Pro Football Writers Association and a Hall of Fame voter. She’s covered the Cowboys’ beat for a long time and there’s a reason why we affectionately call her, “Mother Football.” It’s not like we were hearing rumors of layoffs at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, so I’d have to say it was even more shocking than Ed just because it completely came seemingly out of the blue.

                  Werder: Well I was the first person to work the Cowboys beat with Jacques, and I've known Charean since she followed me on the Tampa Bay Bucs beat at The Orlando Sentinel. JJT has evolved from beat writer to columnist and radio talk show host. He has very creative column ideas and executes them well. Randy Galloway calls Charean "Mother Football," which he intends as a show of great respect for her knowledge of the game. She's one of the most accomplished female journalists in the country—a HOF voter and former president of Pro Football Writers Association. Both are genuinely good people and true friends of mine so I certainly didn't expect any of us to be in this predicament. I've been a subscriber to the DMN and Star-Telegram for more than 25 years. When they laid off Charean, I canceled my subscription. People have responded by saying such actions only lead to more job losses, but I think consumers have to send the message that there are consequences for actions such as further depleting the writing staff. I mean when a newspaper fails, it's usually because of management, not the writing staff.

                  Williams: Ed Werder? Are you kidding me? His layoff is probably the first time I said to myself, "Well, if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone." I figured Jacques was safe because he covered the Cowboys. Jacques and Ed go back a long way here. They both have many sources, have broken a lot of stories and have become recognized as voices on the Cowboys. I have much respect for both and am proud to call them friends.

                  Why is there interest in Cowboys content away from Dallas?

                  Taylor: They’re a marquee franchise because they’ve always had stars, whether it was Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Drew Pearson in the ’70s or Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin in the ’90s. Now, they have Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant. Fans and TV are drawn to stars. The Cowboys have also had their share of dynamic polarizing players such as Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Charles Haley, Deion Sanders, Tony Romo and Terrell Owens. You either love those players or you hate them. Either way, you watch them because they cause an emotional reaction. You also have to know that Tex Schramm and Jerry Jones are two of the greatest marketing geniuses ever. At least Schramm marketed a winner. The Cowboys haven’t had consecutive double-digit win seasons since 1995-96. They haven’t been to the NFC Championship game since 1995. Only Detroit and Washington (1991) have longer streaks in the NFC. Understand, every other NFC team has been at least twice. Yet, the Cowboys still max out on national TV appearances each and every year.

                  Werder: The Cowboys are a national team on a scale few, if any, in the NFL can match. Maybe the Packers or Steelers or Patriots can challenge that. But interest has often been disproportionate to its success. It doesn't matter if the Cowboys are 5-11 or 11-5, they're a team of interest. Tex Schramm created a mystique and Jerry Jones is a businessman with the ability to promote like it few others so that has only grown larger.

                  Williams: Tex Schramm, Tom Landry, Gil Brandt and Roger Staubach got that ball rolling in the 1970s not only with the team's play but with how smart they were off the field. Did you know the team answered every autograph request that players received? After that, it became generational, although I do believe Jerry Jones, the ultimate showman, has built on it, growing the team's popularity despite the fact that the Cowboys haven't won the Super Bowl since 1995. Love the Cowboys or hate them, everybody is interested in them.

                  What are your plans and aspirations heading forward?

                  Taylor: I’m blessed. I’ve had a local radio show—J Dub City—in Dallas on 103.3 FM-KESN with Will Chambers since October. It’s Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and it’s given my life a normalcy since the layoff because I returned home from getting laid off by ESPN on Wednesday night and I went to work Thursday morning at 6:45. I still want to write and report because I love it. I tell folks during my radio show all the time that y’all sit around and argue with your friends about why coaches, players or teams did this or that. I don’t. I go out and ask coaches, players and general managers why they did this or that. That’s the beauty of this business. I never have to wonder why. I also enjoy telling stories and using my job to bring awareness to issues and to help people that don’t have a voice. I used to consider 50 old. I still feel young. It’s way to early for me to retire and I don’t want to do anything else. I’m hopeful the reputation I’ve established in this business will provide some opportunities for me to continue writing as well the work I do on my radio show.

                  Werder: Like I tweeted when I announced I had been laid off, I'm not retiring. I was doing my best work when this decision was made. I was more comfortable in the studio and less reliant on notes than ever before. I've accumulated a great contact list within the league. I'm so appreciative of those on social media who even now, a month later, are publicly supportive and complimentary of the way I've done my job and the principles I've tried to honor in my work. Honestly, the best thing about what happened is the reaction I got from people in the league, especially from coaches who have lost jobs through no fault of their own and had to do what we and others have to do now to rebuild our careers. I'm doing a Cowboys-focused Doomsday Podcast with Matt Mosley, a former ESPN and DMN colleague with whom I have great chemistry. I think it has enormous potential and it's been incredibly enjoyable. It’s difficult because I remain under contract to ESPN and I can't just go take another job. I'm fortunate in that I've been offered several, some involving the Cowboys. People know we are being paid but what they don't understand is we've had something taken from us—the jobs we love to do. I've always been motivated by the competition of the business. I enjoy being part of a team. I'm proud of the career I've had, the way I've done it and I'm not ready for it to be over.

                  Williams: I knew what my dream job was at an early age. Now that I've lived that, I'm asking myself, "What's my new dream job?" I haven't figured that out yet. But I consider this a beginning, not an end.

                  What advice, if any, would you give to younger people who want to do what you do?

                  Taylor: I believe in chasing dreams. As a 10-year-old growing up in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas I read the sports page every afternoon and I wanted to be a reporter so I could go to games for free. By the time I got to Skyline High School, I wanted to be Dallas Morning News columnist Randy Galloway and even wrote a poem about it once that I showed him when I started working at the Morning News. I live by something my dad has always told me over the years. He says it’s always better to experience the exhilaration of success and even the despair of disappointment and failure than to always taking the safe road because you’re afraid to explore everything this journey called life has to offer. If you want to be a journalist, then go for it. Prepare yourself to write, do radio, TV and video. Establish your brand, while you’re young, and never stop. Find a niche that makes you unique and go for it. Sports will always be here and someone will always be needed to tell the stories of those teams, athletes, coaches and owners in some way, shape or form.

                  Werder: I just met this past week with a high school student who is being mentored by a friend and wanted to speak to me because of his interest in sports journalism. I told him that nobody seems to know where journalism is going. So be versatile, get as much practical experience as you can, read and write at every opportunity and keep in mind you never know who might be reading your story and watching your report. And if you're going to pursue journalism to make certain you have a viable backup plan.

                  Williams: When I was in the second grade, I told my teacher I wanted to cover the Cowboys when I grew up. I'd practice doing play-by-play in my metal swing set. The local newspaper wrote a story about the 7-year-old who had a dream to cover America's Team. How many people get to live their dream, much less for 17 years? I would encourage anyone to dream big, and chase that dream as long as possible, but at the same time, realize exactly what you're getting into.

                  Is there anything you wish to add?

                  Taylor: When you get laid off, your initial reaction is obviously disappointment and it makes you question your ability for a day or two. Then the more you think about it and you see the list of talented people laid off and you realize it has zero to do with your ability. I had one of my best years in 2016 whether it was my oral history on Tony Romo, my TV interview of watching film of Ezekiel Elliott with Emmitt Smith or my piece on former Texas A&M receiver Thomas Johnson (with Shaun Assael, who was also laid off) that won a New York Press Club award. It was bigger than me. It wasn’t about what I did or didn’t do, so I eagerly await the next opportunity with no emotional baggage.

                  Williams: I got to do what I loved for a really long time. I have attended 23 Super Bowls, including my time at the Orlando Sentinel, and seven Olympic Games. It's been a great ride. But the best, I am convinced, is ahead of me.

                  Add that Rick Gosselin was laid off from Dallas Morning News.


                  • #10

                    NFL insider John 'The Professor' Clayton out at ESPN

                    Michael McCarthy, NFP
                    The Professor's tenure at ESPN is coming to an end.

                    NFL insider John "The Professor" Clayton is leaving ESPN as part of the sweeping layoffs at the Worldwide Leader in Sports, sources tell Sporting News. ESPN and Clayton both declined comment.

                    The well-respected Clayton has served as a senior NFL writer and commentator at ESPN for 23 years.

                    Sporting an unforgettable ponytail, Clayton starred in one of the most memorable "This is SportsCenter" TV commercials of all time. In the 2012 commercial, Clayton delivers a report to anchor Stan Verrett. Once his on-air hit is over, the secret rock n' roller rips off his faux suit, lets down his mullet and cranks up the music.

                    "Hey Mom, I'm done with my segment," screams Clayton, while chowing down in his bed.

                    Clayton played the spot for laughs. But there's no joking about his Hall of Fame journalism career.

                    He started covering sports as a Pennsylvania high schooler. Clayton covered the Terry Bradshaw-Mean Joe Greene Steelers for the Pittsburgh Press in 1976.

                    That memorable team reached the AFC championship game before it lost to Ken Stabler and John Madden's eventual Super Bowl champion Raiders.

                    Clayton served as the Tacoma News Tribune's Seahawks beat writer from 1986 through 1998.

                    In 2007, Clayton was inducted into the writer's wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

                    Clayton is still talking NFL with an ESPN connection. He has his own weekday radio show on 710 ESPN KIRO Seattle. The AM sports radio station is not owned by ESPN, however. It's owned by Bonneville International and licenses the ESPN name.

                    HOF member, exits with class...

                    John Clayton @ClaytonESPN
                    By the way I am keeping the ponytail

                    I can honestly say that my relationship with ESPN was the second best in my life. My marriage to my wife Pat is obviously No. 1.

                    I am well taken care of by ESPN. I have daily show on 710 ESPN Seattle 10 to 12 pacific. I fill in on Sirius on moving the chains.

                    I guess you saw the news. After 23 years I won't be contributing to ESPN. Two words. Thank you. My bosses and co-workers are the best.
                    Last edited by H2O4me; 05-31-2017, 12:25 PM.


                    • #11
                      John Ourand

                      54 mins ·
                      Internal email from Fox Sports President Eric Shanks:
                      Dear Colleagues:

                      I regret to inform you that Jamie Horowitz, President of National Networks for FOX Sports, will be leaving FOX Sports effective immediately. We realize this news may come as a surprise for many of you, but we are confident in this decision.

                      Everyone at FOX Sports, no matter what role we play, or what business, function or show we contribute to -- should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times. These values are non-negotiable.

                      Until Jamie’s replacement is named, I am stepping in to handle his former responsibilities including programming, marketing and scheduling for FS1 and FS2, as well as digital. All of these functions will now report directly to me.

                      We understand how difficult this will be for many of you, but in these times it is important that we remain unwavering and focused in continuing the great work of FOX Sports.


                      This is the guy who thought the written word was over for sports, that everything needed to be short video clips and "hot takes" only.


                      • #12
                        ESPN's streaming service could be a game changer

                        The Walt Disney Co. finally unveiled its plan to offer an over-the-top video streaming edition of ESPN for the growing number of fans who want live sports — but not the big cable bill that a previous generation paid.

                        Now the question is whether the revenue generated by the new service to be launched in 2018 will be enough to offset the subscriber dollars that go away every time a household decides it can do without cable. It may take a few years for that to happen, but the consensus in the sports TV industry is that Disney could not afford to wait any longer to find out.

                        “It was almost a mandatory that ESPN had to do something like this,” said Lee Berke, president of LHB Sports, Media & Entertainment, and a former sports TV network executive. “It’s not going to all be made up for in the next six months or a year or two years, but streaming is where the growth is and it’s where the next generation of viewers are increasingly heading.”

                        While ESPN continues to be a significant profit center for Disney, the migration of viewers to streaming continues to cut into the revenue it receives from pay-TV providers.

                        Disney this week reported a 22% third-quarter drop in operating income in its media networks unit, which houses ESPN and ABC. Within the cable networks group, which includes ESPN, segment operating income was down 23% to $1.46 billion. Disney attributed the drop-off, in part, to higher programming costs — including $400 million toward a new NBA TV contract — and lower advertising revenue at ESPN, which fell 8% in the quarter due to smaller audiences.

                        Every household that decides to cancel its pay-TV subscription means less revenue for ESPN, which commands the highest carriage fees of any network — commanding around $7 to $8 out of every monthly cable bill, according to SNL Kagan. In other words, cable and satellite TV companies pay ESPN about $8 a month for every household that receives the sports channels.

                        ESPN was in 100 million cable and satellite households in 2011. It’s now at 87 million households, according to Nielsen data, as streaming video has become a way of life for the current generation of TV viewers, many of whom are foregoing a pay-TV subscription.

                        That group is on the rise. According to Nielsen, 62% of all U.S. households — around 73 million — now use Internet-connected televisions or streaming video devices. In those homes, streaming video consumed by those ages 25 to 34 accounts for 23% of TV usage.

                        The new ESPN over-the-top offering meant to appeal to streaming video users will not be the same channel that cable subscribers currently receive. It will be a separate service available through the ESPN app and offer access to thousands of live events from Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, Grand Slam Tennis, and various college sports organizations.

                        It will not include NFL or National Basketball Assn. contests that are the big ratings drivers for ESPN’s cable channels, which can only be streamed with a pay-TV subscription. Disney has not said how much the service will cost.

                        But the service could become more robust over time. Walt Disney Chairman Bob Iger said the company will have the ability to deliver the ESPN channels directly to viewers if the number of pay-TV subscribers continues to deteriorate, but indicated there would be an impact on the revenue it receives from cable and satellite providers.

                        “If we wanted to take ESPN direct [to consumers], we could,” Iger told analysts Tuesday.

                        Iger added that an over-the-top offering would have an effect on some of its agreements with pay-TV providers that he described as “sub-optimal.”

                        Disney’s preparation for the streaming future includes increasing its stake in BAMTech, the interactive media company formed by Major League Baseball that designs and operates the platforms for streaming video services. The acquisition announced Tuesday gives ESPN access to BAMTech’s technology and the streaming rights to sporting events that the company currently holds.

                        But whatever strides the company makes in reaching over-the-top users, it may not be fast enough to outpace the loss in revenue that occurs through the loss of cable subscriptions. An analyst note from Barclays Capital called the Disney announcement on ESPN a defensive move.

                        Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who specializes in the sports business, agreed with that assessment. He said the bounty that ESPN and other cable sports networks have enjoyed by getting fees for every cable household they reached is going to be missed if sports moves to an over-the-top distribution model and consumers get used to having the ability to pay only for the channels they watch.

                        “That is going to diminish or disappear and that’s bound to hurt,” said Zimbalist. He added that the new proliferation of over-the-top services is only going to make the TV landscape more crowded and competitive.

                        Shifting TV habits have already prompted cuts at ESPN. It went through a major round of layoffs in 2016, reducing its workforce by 4%. Earlier this year, the network fired around 100 reporters, analysts and commentators.

                        ESPN has also been under pressure from escalating sports rights fees — its costs to carry the NBA just doubled. Other fees may get even higher going forward as technology companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook are expected to pursue exclusive rights to National Football League packages when they become available in 2022. Amazon is paying $50 million this year for the non-exclusive streaming rights for 10 of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” games this season that will also air on CBS or NBC.

                        Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis, said ESPN and other TV networks are still in a better position to deliver a massive number of viewers to advertisers than a streaming service.

                        “Given where the ratings are and what audiences the network can generate, I’d be very shocked if it could make business sense for an Amazon or [Google] to outbid them,” he said.