The worldwide leader in sports has been making headlines recently as they just followed through on a plan to lay off over 100 employees. ESPN had to cut ties with numerous individuals including journalists and TV personalities such as John Buccigross. The lay offs may not have impacted the public as much as it should have, for this economic turmoil within the headquarters at Bristol could have disastrous effects.
ESPN relies on subscriber fees in order to stay afloat and maintain viewership, but it seems as though this economic gain has been falling for years. As people are able to pick and choose their bundles for cable television, a large crowd is electing to leave ESPN out. There are also individuals that are cutting cable off altogether as they have access to the likes of Amazon and Netflix, and are tired of subsidizing sports networks that they never tune into. For this reason ratings are down 16% this year compared to last year, and ESPN is feeling the pressure. They have decided to cut the journalists and the individuals that relay the sports information, and instead put all their money on the bet that debate talk shows and commentary can bring enough revenue to the table. It will be interesting to see how this works out for the Disney program, but there must also be an address on the issues that brought them to this point.
In recent years ESPN has opted to form their programs with a liberal undertone, one that ties in all sorts of media that can be found on the E! Network and CNN alike. It is this type of mindset that has gotten Bristol into the trouble that they face. Clay Travis explains, “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.” There are some cases in which I believe that Travis is wrong, for at times there are strong political ties to sports that must be addressed. Kaepernick was a nationwide ordeal this year and if ESPN was to ignore this instance then it would be a crime of sorts, so in that situation they are right in their coverage. The place where ESPN runs into trouble, in my opinion, is shows like “The Six” that replaced the regular airing of SportsCenter. If I tune into EPSN I expect to see a recap of the Mets’ game and not Jemele Hill’s hot take on Drake’s new album. The only true time that ESPN has pure coverage of sports is at midnight when Scott Van Pelt appears. The worldwide leader in sports is simply too big to fail, and the backing of Dinsey will not allow it to; but for those that were laid off due to their poor management of the station the economic burden is great. The lay offs also signal bad news for other industries.
The UFC is likely to feel a great impact from the ESPN layoffs in an indirect fashion. For their pay-per-view subcriptions have decreased steadily in 2017 compared to 2016 in which Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor ran the show and appeared numerous times on big tickets. The UFC contract is up at the end of the year as they could potentially cut ties with FOX, one of ESPN’s rivals. The UFC was hoping to open a bidding war in order to make up for the lack in pay-per-view subscriptions, but with Bristol in economic downfall the bidding war is likely not to happen or at least not rise enough to help the UFC make up for their current debts. The upcoming contract is expected to peak at $150 million, meanwhile the UFC had hoped that a bidding war could reach a potential $400 million. Thus the lay offs in Bristol will affect not only the station nor the people without jobs, but could potentially lead to an issue for live sports coverage nationally, the first of which being the UFC.