Lost in all this tournament hubbub today has been the cover story in the new Sports Business Journal, which asks the (presumably) rhetorical question: Why is everybody all up in ESPN's grill of late? Yep, the world of sports business has finally noticed that people always aren't happy with ESPN. Welcome, all.
The story's a solid read, particularly its dissection of a recent powerpoint memo about the network that argues that sports leagues rarely benefit from associations with ESPN nearly as much as Bristol does. But we hat we found most amazing was how taken aback, downright befuddled, ESPN suits remain when people criticize the network. Seriously, still.
Even though Disney bought the company in 1995, longtime company employees kept a chip on their shoulder, truly believing that they were the little guy who had to work harder than their competitors. Even today, many of these executives genuinely seem surprised and hurt by much of the criticism. For example, some ESPN executives could not understand why NBC's Fred Gaudelli and Andrea Kremer publicly belittled ESPN's "Monday Night Football" production in February. They were especially stung that the criticism came from former colleagues.
Today, as the unquestioned leader in sports media, ESPN executives slowly are getting used to some of the criticism and are trying to figure out how to operate as the big, established company, rather than the up-and-comer. "We have become successful by following an astoundingly simply principle: serve fans," Skipper said. "Criticism is one of the prices you pay for success at this level."
It's a fascinating read, and we'd say about 75 percent of what ESPN says in there is eminently reasonable. And about 90 percent of what their critics say is reasonable as well. We're not sure how the math works out there.
Taking Aim At Bristol [Sports Business Journal]