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ESPN Hellbent on Destroying Remaining Viewership With More Political Chat

ESPN Hellbent on Destroying Remaining Viewership With More Political Chat

Because what viewers want is MORE politics in their sports…

What’s the fastest way to ruin anything? Inject politics into it. This well-known, but unwritten rule of the Universe seems to have escaped ESPN, who’s now doubling down on their political banter.

The once great sports broadcasting network recently revised their discussion rules so as to accommodate for increased political commentary germane to the sporting event being covered.

I’m so old, I remember when sports were a fabulous escape from the evils of the world, of which politics is a part.

Jim Brady, Public Editor for ESPN explains:

The timing of the release of the election guidelines is a bit unusual — such guidelines are rarely released right after a presidential election; they’re usually updated near the beginning of a presidential campaign. But we are living in unique political times, which ESPN apparently recognized, which explains the revised guidelines for discussion of political and social issues.

“Given the intense interest in the most recent presidential election and the fact subsequent political and social discussions often intersected with the sports world, we found it to be an appropriate time to review our guidelines,” said Patrick Stiegman, ESPN’s vice president of global digital content and the chairman of the company’s internal Editorial Board, which drafted the new guidelines.

Stiegman said no single issue or incident led to the change, but Craig Bengtson, ESPN’s vice president and managing editor of newsgathering and reporting, said the nation’s tense political climate did play a role.

“We have the convergence of a politically charged environment and all these new technologies coming together at once,” he said. “Based on that, we wanted the policy to reflect the reality of the world today. There are people talking about politics in ways we have not seen before, and we’re not immune from that.”

This is a programming decision, not a mandate. They could just as easily eliminate political discourse from their sports coverage but have chosen not to. Instead, they’d rather dabble in political commentary, sullying everything from America’s most-loved pastime to badminton.

So what’s changing?

The two most notable changes from the Political Advocacy policy are the delineation of guidelines between news and commentary, and allowing for increased political discussion on ESPN platforms, as warranted and connected to sports. This isn’t a surprising development, it’s just new.

“We wanted to err on the side of transparency and trust with our reporting,” Stiegman said, “but also give our columnists and commentators the freedom to discuss topics relevant to those sports fans who visit our platforms, even if the issues are political or social in nature.”

Here are other notable points in the Political and Social Issues policy, with my thoughts:

“Original news reports should not include statements of support, opposition or partisanship related to any social issue, political position, candidate or office holder.”

This one seems straightforward and achievable, at least within ESPN’s platforms. The one place on ESPN in which you don’t see straight opinion is on the hard news side of the operation.

“Writers, reporters, producers and editors directly involved in ‘hard’ news reporting, investigative or enterprise assignments and related coverage should refrain in any public-facing forum from taking positions on political or social issues, candidates or office holders.”

The three key words here are “public-facing forum.” That expands this policy beyond ESPN’s borders and brings the Wild West of social media into play. In fact, later in the memo, it is said directly that the policy applies to “ESPN, Twitter, Facebook and other media.”

ESPN’s ratings are in the crapper with subscribers bolting in droves. By some estimates, an average of 300,000 subscribers are leaving the iconic sports network each month. Just last year, ESPN had their worst month, losing a whopping 621,000 cable subscribers in October. The economics of sports rights are fascinating and also part of the reason ESPN is about three times as pricey as other cable channels.

In February, ESPN was reportedly losing 10,000 customers every single day. Some of the losses are likely due to the increase in cable cutters but that’s not the full story. As it turns out, no one wants baseball with a side of social justice.

From one of my fave sports blogs, Outkick the Coverage:

The result of this coming financial calamity has been panic, which has primarily manifested itself in a desperate ploy for relevance. ESPN decided to become a social justice warrior network, treating all liberal opinion makers as those worthy of promotion and casting aside all those who had the gall to challenge the new Disney world order.


You would be astounded by how many people inside ESPN I hear from who have the absolute gall to vote Republican. Yes, they exist. And yes they are terrified of you knowing who they are. In fact, many of them are reading this right now and nodding their heads at the absurdity of this corporate decision.

Not surprisingly, that hasn’t deterred the network’s “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” attitude. In their desperation for relevancy, ESPN is heading in what appears the exact opposite direction of what made them great.

I give them five years max.

Follow Kemberlee on Twitter @kemberleekaye


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Take an institution, kill it, gut it, wear its car as as a skin suit in a grotesque mockery of its former self.

Extraordinarily Stupid Political … ?

Happily NOT a consumer, but what I hear indicates that the “politics” are universally Collectivist and race obsessed.

Another example of Conquest’s Second Law.

    MattMusson in reply to Ragspierre. | April 5, 2017 at 8:58 am

    If you are purchasing Cable that includes ESPN channels you are paying on average $88 dollars a year for ESPN even if you don’t watch it. In fact, you are paying $22 a year just for Monday Night Football.

casualobserver | April 5, 2017 at 8:41 am

I pray for the day the network becomes so unprofitable that the have to renegotiate some of their college sports positions. As it is now, I only tune in to see the actual college football events, where they have a near monopoly on the broadcasts. Basketball too, to a lesser degree. Starting a few years back I stopped watching most any show outside of the sporting events. And it’s those areas that are most impacted by recent layoffs. I expect that only gets worse with the newest guidelines.

tarheelkate | April 5, 2017 at 8:50 am

I not only won’t watch ESPN for anything but an actual sporting event I want to see, but I also refuse to go to their website for sports news.

Remember how CNN had the entire market until they became so bias that Fox News was born.

ESPN may be giving a big long term boost to Fox Sports.

I just heard they were requiring “balance” i.e. if you interview a feminist, you should also interview a Muslim. Yeah that works …

and just try going against the racial orthodoxies. Or don’t if you know what’s good for you.

Not renewing ESPN when my cable package is up. Will specifically ask not to have any package that includes ESPN.

    mrtomsr in reply to artichoke. | April 5, 2017 at 9:40 am

    I had cable, got fed up that I was paying to watch advertising, went to DirecTV, but storms and the aforementioned paying to watch advertising once again upset me. When I complained to them, I don’t want to purchase packages, and only want to purchase stations I want to view, I was told a flat no.

    So, with the kids no longer in the house, we now have antenna TV, with a fire stick from amazon and Apple TV for the guest room. I could get 24 hour news but don’t. I am slowly unplugging and am happier for it.

    “Balance” in modern MSM parlance just means interviewing someone from each side. It doesn’t mean ESPN can’t lob softballs at leftist commentators and hurl curveballs at right-leaning guests. [Sports puns intended.]

    Or they could pull a “Piers Morgan”: have a heart-to-heart with fellow leftists, and bring conservatives on just to verbally bash them on-air.

    “Balance” doesn’t mean they have to play nice with opposing viewpoints, just that they have to play.

That’s the beauty of the free market, though — eventually, the bottom line will yield clarity and influence corporate decision-making. That is, unless Disney corporate management has decided to place Leftist sermonizing and propagandizing above a profit motive.

Odious as their content is, if MSNBC and CNN produce profits for their owners (Comcast and Time Warner, respectively), then, purely from a shareholder perspective, the content at those networks is really irrelevant, no matter how irritating and asinine it might be.

The contrast seems to be that the evidence is clear that ESPN’s self-cultivated foray into Leftist politics is hurting its fiscal performance, so, unless Disney management believe in good faith that spewing Leftist diatribes on a sports network makes for a sound business strategy in the long-term, this trend really will seem to be driven by blind ideological zealotry within Disney management that prioritizes such zealotry above profit.

buckeyeminuteman | April 5, 2017 at 12:57 pm

I pay a grotesque amount for the mid-level DirectTV package and still don’t get ESPN (no big loss to me). However, I do get MLB Network. Was hoping to watch the Indians first game this season on Monday. Instead, it was two dudes talking about something or other, not the ball game. More people talking is not what we want, it’s the actual game.

    I have a hard time watching baseball on any network. If I’m watching a game, I want to watch the game.

    What I don’t want or need is endless commentary from two or three guys, who aren’t even watching the game in-person either, and who often have only a passing familiarity with the game themselves — it’s amazing how often they get a former boxer or basketball player to commentate on baseball, rather than a former baseball player. That’s the part I can’t stand: someone who clearly doesn’t know what’s going on trying to guess and tell me what’s going on.

    We mute it half the time. 😉

    (Full disclosure: I’m not a sports fan. However, I understand the games/rules just fine and I don’t dislike watching. Just not something I ever got into doing regularly.)

I just don’t get it, Disney already have a “petri dish” showing that SJWs don’t show up in the numbers necessary to maintain where the needle is on the dial when they’re so cravenly pandered to, so why persist with thumbing your base viewership in the eye?

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to Ronin0985. | April 5, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    It is not a matter of the petri dish or profit. It is a matter that every attack on America and every act of worship to the Left is a sacrament to them.

It has seemed to me for a while that liberals have taken over lots of spots in businesses. Way too many businesses are becoming sjw’ers of late.
Which is why the last four or five years when my voting ballots for directors and other issues comes in I regularly check who I’m voting for AND I’m now voting FOR them to disclose lobbying efforts and donations to candidates when those get on the ballots.
When you look up directors you’ll be surprised at how many well known liberals are making real good money sitting on the boards of a lot of companies. Compassion for the poor my arse.

JackRussellTerrierist | April 5, 2017 at 5:35 pm

Disney was once a great family experience just as Walt Disney imagined. Now EVERYTHING Disney is hard left, LGBT, multicultural BS. It’s an American horror story.