5 More Reasons Why ESPN Is Failing
Man, ESPN just can't seem to get it together.
In light of the Jemele Hill controversy this week (in which the host of SC6 — formerly SportsCenter — tweeted that Donald Trump is a white supremacist), it's helpful to review all of the problems the media juggernaut has created for itself. In March, I wrote The Top 5 Reasons ESPN's Ratings Are in Freefall. Things have only gotten worse since that time, with over 100 highly paid on-air personalities and other employees having been laid off in April in a cost-cutting move.
ESPN seems to want to continue to double down on everything it's doing wrong. The results are predictable for anyone who isn't on the mothership. It's inconceivable that parent company Disney is pleased with ESPN's steadfast refusal to reverse course.
Here are five more reasons the network is failing:
1. Monday Night Football ratings are still down
The ratings are in for the opening weekend of the NFL and the downward spiral continues. While NBC's Sunday Night Football was up slightly, the first match-up in ESPN's Monday Night Football doubleheader was down 14 percent. The second game was also down by a smaller margin. And no, the decline can't all be blamed on Hurricane Irma.
The rights fees that ESPN paid to the NFL and NBA are an albatross around their neck. Those contracts are continuing to produce declining returns. The bottom line is that ESPN bid against themselves for those rights contracts, causing them to be locked into contracts way more exorbitant than necessary. Of course, ESPN probably couldn't have been expected to foresee these declines at the time they were bidding. The NFL and NBA were juggernauts — just like ESPN. A good portion of the decline comes from structural problems within each sport.
The NFL continues to allow its players to protest during the National Anthem, causing even more viewers to break their football habit. For its part, ESPN continues to highlight the protests (more on that in a moment). ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast was also beset with serious broadcasting problems owing to their insistence on diversity over quality.
Meanwhile, NBA playoff ratings were up on a per-game basis, but the complete lack of competitiveness in the playoffs led to far fewer games and an overall drop in ad revenue. The level of competition likely won't be increasing anytime soon.