Save for its role in putting Craig James's head on the nation's television screens, ESPN has traditionally allowed viewers to ignore politics. The ad spaces during timeouts and between SportsCenter segments were for Gatorade and Five-Hour Energy, not campaign ads.
But this fall, the Wall Street Journal reports, ESPN is going to be a marketplace of democracy:
The sports network has struck a deal with a middleman that will result in more political ads appearing on ESPN programs, including NFL and college football games, in October and November-the critical period before the general election.
There is "great demand" for ad time from "political parties and the super-PACs," said Ed Erhardt, ESPN's president of global customer marketing and sales.
While cable has drawn an increasing share of viewers and overall television advertising over the past couple of decades, political advertising has remained primarily on broadcast TV.
Apparently, ESPN can guarantee geographically-targeted advertising and has convinced advertisers that it can do it more precisely than broadcast networks. And since live sports games are at a premium—stuff where you can't hit fast-forward on your DVR—you'll be stuck watching some ads potentially financed by guys like this. Have fun with that.
ESPN Grabs Political Football [WSJ]