I saw a rather balanced article on the possible demise of ESPN here. To recap, competitors of ESPN and right-leaning news outlets have been signaling the demise of ESPN due to falling subscriber rates and the network being on the hook for lots of money for future sporting events with a bunch of money (and trouble) coming due in 2021 for ESPN. The right-leaning news outlets are claiming the falling subscriber rates are probably due in large part to ESPN injecting left-leaning politics into their shows. In the article, I came across this section:
As a former ESPN subscriber who has not fully cut the cord, I believe I’m in a unique position to give some insight as to why I dropped ESPN. I used to watch ESPN primarily for two reasons:
1. To watch sporting events, and
2. To watch sporting events’ highlights or lowlights.
My ESPN viewing started dropping in the last half of the 2000s because the network became more and more talk heavy. SportsCenter, where I previously could see highlights, transitioned to mostly talk. I still watched ESPN, though, but not as much. By the early 2010s, I was watching ESPN for some shows with sports personalities that I liked, mainly Pardon the Interruption with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon and SportsNation with Michelle Beadle and Colin Cowherd. But, I wasn’t watching sports or the sports highlights shows because,
1. There was little actual sporting events on ESPN, and
2. The sports highlights shows showed few highlights.
Then Michelle Beadle left SportsNation and Pardon the Interruption became too political. I stopped watching PTI at some point in the summer of 2013 when Kornheiser and Wilbon were on one of their extended breaks from the show and I looked up on the internet where the hell they were and I found that they were golfing with then-POTUS Barack Obama. Honestly, this really annoyed me for two reasons:
1. I was finding Obama’s and the left’s politics to be increasingly annoying at the time, and
2. PTI golfing with the POTUS confirmed to me that PTI would continue to inject politics into the show and that injection of politics would continue to annoy me.
After that, I didn’t watch ESPN or its sister channels anymore. It wasn’t a boycott, there just wasn’t anything on the channel that I was interested in. If I didn’t have kids, I would have cut the cord several years ago, but my kids love some of the shows on the kids channels and basic cable. A couple of years ago, Verizon FiOS (which I have and like the service) made an option where you could subscribe to two channel packs for a low price. I got on the offer to reduce my bill and chose the kids channels and stupidly, sports. After almost a year, I found that I never watched ESPN at all and when I went to watch a game that I wanted to see, it was on a channel that was not in the sports channel pack. So, I switched it to kids and basic cable channels and have never looked back, as I don’t watch cable TV anymore (only my kids do).
As for politics, I’m politically interested and those on the left would consider me right-leaning now, even though I don’t consider myself to be. I stopped watching any news channel towards the beginning of the 2000s because they’re the worst channels on TV beyond QVC and I got higher speed internet then. The author’s assumption that I would have to do away with my news channels is wrong, because my political news has come exclusively from the internet for 15 years.
So, several factors have gone into my dropping of ESPN. While my dropping of ESPN was not exclusively due to it becoming left-leaning, it can’t be denied that I was watching ESPN when it used to show sports and the final nail in its coffin occurred when it became too political for me. Perhaps if its politics were a little more balanced I might have watched more, but I doubt it – I wanted to watch sports, not listen to talk. While this article I read had some valid points, the ones predicting ESPN’s collapse (here’s one the original article was referring to here and another one here) have some valid points too. It’s never wise to alienate potentially half of your viewership, either intentionally or unintentionally, and it’s something that ESPN seems to want to admit to having done here, although they recently denied it here. It will be interesting to see how it plays out through 2021.