Can ad sales save ESPN?

This is why you can’t let “content” people run a media business. From one of my favorite sites,Sports By Brooks:

“If you’ve ever worked in media, you know of the eternal battle between sales and programming. Sales wants to dumb down content to make it a more palatable commodity for advertisers, while programming wants to produce provocative content that will draw viewers/listeners/readers. … Before Bodenheimer came along, you didn’t have the obscene number of ad placements across all ESPN platforms. … It’s clear that the primary focus of ESPN’s upper management is making money by selling advertising – and hitting their numbers every quarter.”

No shit Sherlock. ESPN is a business. Newspapers are a business. Radio is a business. Your salary doesn’t get paid unless some ad guy sells advertisers on your product. As someone who worked on the “content” side of things and irritated more advertisers than you can imagine, I understand the tension between sales and the newsroom. You cannot subordinate editorial independence to the whims of advertisers. However, you cannot neglect the feedback you receive through advertisers—they vote with their wallet. Too often the media’s content does not represent the values or concerns of its consumers. The editorial side of the business is usually out-of-touch with the public. How else can you explain the decline of CNN and the rise of Fox News?

CNN’s content creators were full of themselves. Their view was the only legitimate view. Such hubris is not a recipe for success in a competitive environment. Sports By Brooks attacks ESPN’s “blander-by-the-day programming.” But that is what ESPN needed. Sportscenter of the last decade had become unwatchable thanks to the smartass presenters. Fortunately, Keith Olbermann is on some other network that most people don’t watch (MSNBC) instead of ESPN. Personalities are useful, but they should never overpower the product—in the case of media, that is reporting the story. The best ESPN shows were roundtable discussions like the Sports Reporters with Dick Schaap. This show provided reasoned commentary without the mugging for the camera.

If ESPN’s advertising leaders gain control of loudmouth content people, ESPN will get better. I may watch more than the ballgames on the World Wide Leader.


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  1. 1

    When Olbermann and Patrick hosted SportsCenter they made the viewers AND the advertisers happy. Smart-alecky wannabes who succeeded them could never duplicate their formula, THAT’S the problem; those folks should quit trying to be somebody they’re not and forge their own style.

  2. 2

    Mr. Capstonereport has one of the better Bama sites out there. But to claim that FoxNews is in touch with the public is ridiculous. FoxNews is a mouthpiece of the Republican Party. That can’t be disputed. The only people Fox is in touch with is the Conservative base. It may have been smart business to go after and corner this demographic, but to claim that Fox is in touch with the ‘public’ is just plain nuts.

    There needs to be balance between the marketing folks and the content people. If the scales tip too far in either direction, you get crappy programming.

  3. 3

    And CNN largely has been a mouthpiece of liberal policies. This is nothing new. Most journalists, according to surveys conducted over the last twenty years, are liberals. This is reflected in everything from story selection to the manner stories are reported.

    I don’t think CNN is biased per se, but I think it does lean to one side of the political spectrum. I also think Fox leans to the other side of the spectrum; and, this is good for journalism. It is also good that we know Fox News’ political leanings. I’ve always said newspapers from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s were better because they were honest about their political identification and agenda. There is no honesty from the traditional media outlets, and this creates a lack of trust.

    As for my in touch with the public, I consider every view out there as part of the public, and the major media players neglected a big, big segment of the public.

  4. 4
    Auburn is a joke formerly the fan known as Ballplay Indian

    Cap…..There is ZERO doubt that CNN is biased. Fox is biased. But, not near to the extent CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, or MSNBC are. They dont even try to be subtle about it anymore.

    What kills me about FOX is that they will cover the dude that got his schlong superglued to his leg about 10 times a day. They always seem to have a perverted irrelevent story that gets covered waay too much. Its almost like they have a bunch of middle school aged kids running the show for about 3 hours a day.

    Finebammer,,,,,Calling Finebammer……

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