Last week, Erin Andrews joined Michelle Beadle and Jim Rome as high-profile personalities waving bye-bye to ESPN. On top of that, Jason McIntyre of Big Lead has recent posts speculating that Doug Gottlieb (a TV/radio package from CBS) and Dan Shulman (possible interest from Fox and NBC) also could fly out the door.
What’s wrong with the WWL?
So it isn’t a coincidence that the ESPN PR machine has put out releases heralding new multi-year packages for Adam Schefter, John Clayton, Mel Kiper, and Ed Werder. Stuart Scott’s new deal got special treatment on ESPN’s Front Row.
It struck me as unusual that ESPN would put out releases for mere contract renewals. I mean, will ESPN execs sleep better knowing Werder is back in the fold for a few more years? No offense, Ed, but you know what I mean.
It turns out these releases go beyond the latest news. They also were meant to deliver a message.
Said ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys in an email to me:
With all the erroneous reports of an “exodus” from Bristol we decided to inject a few facts into the debate. The vast majority of our folks love it here and stay, so for the time being we are reminding people of that. Stu yesterday, NFL group today, more soon.
Really, it’s a just a sign of the times. With NBC and CBS amping up their cable and sports talk radio presence, it figures they are going to be in pursuit of ESPN’s recognized personalities. If anything, for most ESPNers, it’s a great time to be up for a new contract. It’s definitely a seller’s market.
As we’ve seen, ESPN will keep some and lose some.
So expect more speculation about ESPN personalities moving elsewhere, and more releases about those who stay.