The End of ESPN?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Mike Tirico, Bill Simmons, Brad Nessler, Skip Bayless, Colin Cowheard, Chris Spielman, Robert Smith, Justin Whitlock, and Matt Millen have all left ESPN in the last year. That’s a lot of talent walking out of the door of the ‘sports leader.’ Combine that with a decline in subscribers and ESPN’s chief John Skipper has got to be having a few sleepless nights.

Mike TiricoSome would say that Simmons is the biggest loss but I would argue that Tirico is a bigger blow. He has been a workhorse at the network. He did play-by-play for Monday Night Football, the NBA, golf, college football national championship games on the radio and studio work for ESPN’s soccer coverage. He was one of the hardest working guys in Bristol. It will take three or four people to replace him at a minimum.

Tirico leaving hurts. As Richard Deitsch and John Ourand from Sport Business Journal point out on Deitsch’s podcast, Tirico leaving was a surprise as many people thought that he was an ESPN lifer.

Is ESPN in trouble? Yeah a little bit. While they have locked up the rights for college football, college basketball, the NBA, MLB and MLS for a while, they have to find new top quality play-play commentators and adapt to the changing media landscape. From cord cutting to the so called ‘death of the highlight show, there is a lot of uncertainty out there.

What they do have is the biggest brand in sports and possibly in America. They are the 800-pound gorilla that defines sports culture in this country. They have the money, the resources and know how to cover any sport effectively.

While they are in a rough patch, the fact of the matter is that Fox Sports, CBS Sports and NBC Sports are still a couple of lengths behind. ESPN has more platforms, journalists, and top quality sports to keep them ahead in the various metrics until they stop hemorrhaging talent and subscribers.

Is ESPN dying? Not yet but it is a bull that has been stuck a few times. They have to figure out how to expand their reach to the younger audience while maintaining their lead over Fox, NBC and CBS. It’s not an easy road but one they can certainly maneuver down successfully.

Word to the wise though, don’t let any more announcers leave.

The Sunday: The End, The Beginning & Why We Keep Watching

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The Best Hangs’em Up

Abby Wambach was the best. We say ‘was’ because she announced this week that she will retire from the game after the USWNT December 16th game against China. Currently she has had 252 appearances on the international stage and 184 goals. Hats off to the best.

Power Outage

PLEASE STAND BYGame one of the World Series is kind of a big deal….and then the power goes out to the TV trucks. That’s essentially what happened to FOX during game one. Luckily it was just FOX (along with Televisa and NHK) and not the stadium itself.

FOX did rally well and was tapped into the MLB feed a few minutes later so the game could continue.

Yes they did delay the game.

 

Shootout To Ends All Shootouts 

If you didn’t watch the shootout in the MLS Cup Playoff knockout match between Portland and Sporting KC then stop what you are doing and click on the video below. It was unbelievable, un….everything. That includes breaking the laws of physics.

 

Yeah, That Shouldn’t Have Counted

Miami Lateral GraphicPlease see image to the right. Looks amazing right? Ok, now go watch the video below. We count a knee down of a Miami player before he pitched the ball, three blocks in the back (only one drew a referee’s flag & was reviewed which isn’t reviewable but officials didn’t enforce it anyway), a Miami player running onto the field towards the end of the play from the sidelines with his helmet off (too many men on the field and a player with helmet off are both penalties) and the replay officials are like, ‘yeah looks fine. Want to go to the Halloween party?’ To be fair….no there really isn’t fair here. Duke got screwed.

 

The End Of The Project

GrantlandESPN shuttered Grantland. The long format mix of sports and entertainment started by now ex – ESPN employee Bill Simmons had a lot of twists and turns. It, ironically enough, deserves its own ESPN 30 for 30. The sight did prove two important things: One person is not more powerful than a Disney subsidiary & long format content can work in the era of 140 character limits.

 

The Shorts From Saturday

It’s called elevation holmes.

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Trojan War Fails To Deliver

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The ESPN 30 for 30 series has brought us many great stories. From the ‘Guru of Go’ to ‘Small Potatoes’ to ‘Pony Express’ to ‘The Two Escobars’. The series has continued to knock one documentary after another out of the park. They have also struck out a few times and they struck out looking on ‘Trojan War’.

Trojan War ‘Trojan War’ is the first film in Volume 3 and was directed by Aaron Rahsaan Thomas. Thomas is an accomplished TV Producer but in this his Directorial debut, he fell short. ‘Trojan War’ showed a massive lack of creativity and professionalism with it’s poor VO (done by Thomas) and its script direction graphics wiped on the screen with cliched typing sound effects. After about 15 minutes it felt like nails down a chalkboard.

If you could get over that and know anything about the era then you would know how much they left out. The loss to Cal in 2003 was huge. It cost them a berth in the National Title game and they ended up having to split the National Title with LSU. Zero mention of that. Instead they filled the 90 minute documentary with a lot of interviews with people who didn’t really matter (a backup quarterback who threw two touchdown passes? Really?)

The fact is (and through no fault of Thomas) that this story has been done by NFL Network’s ‘A Football Life’ last year and it’s too soon for people to really open up about the era. One for the main pillars of the story, Reggie Bush, didn’t even do an interview. It was partially because of decisions he made that USC’s “era” ended. This story would have been better served being done 10 years from now when the dust truly settled.

CarrollOne good takeaway from the film was Pete Carroll. How he changed his style and the culture he developed at USC were the solid takeaways from the film. In all honesty, ESPN just should have done a 30 for 30 on him and dived deeper into how he changed his coaching style and became successful on the collegiate and professional level after being a below average head coach as his two previous NFL stops.

ESPN 30 for 30 is a solid film series. The vast majority of the stories they have told to this point have been compelling and well done. One of 30 for 30’s creators was Bill Simmons who was unceremoniously removed from ESPN earlier this year. You can’t help but wonder if ‘Trojan War’ would have been better if Simmons was still in ESPN’s good graces. It might have been better if it wasn’t made at all. A very disappointing start to Volume 3.