As depressing was the news about the many dozens of anchors, reporters, and behind-the-scenes personnel at ESPN that started on April 29 and continued well into the first week of May, there is no denying about this simple fact in this social media conscious/our attention span being as short as a flea era:
Cord cutters have been speaking out in bunches. No longer can people afford the exorbitantly high subscriber fees that ESPN doles out just to put their programming on the air.
When the network last bid for rights to televise the NBA and the NFL, the numbers were in the billions of dollars. Couple that with most people getting their sports information (albeit in soundbites instead of 4 to 5 minute long segments) via their mobile device, the era of true and honest journalism has gone the same way as Zayre, Venture, Circuit City, Blockbuster Video, Borders Bookstore, Linens & Things, and recently of H.H. Gregg–once great places to do business, but are no longer in existence.
With the layoffs of talented SportsCenter anchors Jaymee Sire, Jade McCarthy, Chris Hassel, Jay Crawford, and as of Thursday with Sara Walsh–along with college basketball analysts and beat reporters in Len Elmore, Andy Katz, and Dana O’Neil (in addition to longtime Sports Illustrated beat writer Seth Davis who was let go during the week of May 15)–it begs to ask the question:
Outside of live sports, is ESPN worth watching anymore?
At one time, you could be entertained and get some good laughs along the way (thank you, Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann–before he went on those longer rants about other topics away from sports). Hockey provided a much needed break from the usual 2 hour college basketball fests.
Going forward, the morning shows continue to feature hosts that most people cannot stand are in their plans. We know the people by name, and yet, they still dominate in Nielsen’s popular men’s age brackets.
The afternoons will feature 90 minutes of NFL Live, Rachel Nichols no longer earning a summer vacation as her NBA vehicle The Jump will be seen year-round instead of stopping right after the NBA Finals in June until training camp starts up in early October. Even integrating programs from niche channels like Intentional Talk from MLB Network shows that people are not into getting key stats and scores in plain English. Jemele Hill and Michael Smith continue their SC6 show during the week, with former anchor Lindsay Czarniak starting in the morning slot previously occupied by Jaymee Sire.
But the biggest change of all will come in January 2018, as longtime ESPN Radio co-host of the popular Mike and Mike Morning Show Mike Greenberg will be moving to his childhood home of New York to anchor the new 3 hour morning show to air 7 to 10 a.m. Eastern time on ESPN (with full replays on ESPN2 to follow immediately thereafter).
And who knows–if ESPNU and/or ESPNEWS start morphing into ESPN4, maybe niche sports like Super 14 Rugby, cricket, Australian Rules football, and one of my other favorite leagues to follow from July to November in the Canadian Football League could air regularly again on television–I think some people might embrace the change instead of just seeing reruns of SportsCenter all day.
Something to chew on during the weekend as we wait to see what will happen with the professional careers of over 100 people who were laid off from what once was, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
After this round of layoffs where scores of people got “the call”, I am afraid ESPN will be heading down the same route that has plagued MTV, HLN, and most of The Weather Channel–channels that have gone away from their original missions and have mostly shown strange banter and lots of junk programming to fill most hours of the day and night.
As the old adage goes, “People get what they deserve.” And I am so glad I found listening to podcasts and tons of independent rock music as a better use of my time. Sorry ESPN, but you may soon be losing another longtime cord lover.