John Ourand of Sports Business Journal has an excellent breakdown of why ESPN had to make its cuts.
But last week’s layoffs offered the clearest sign yet that all is not well for the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
Many past and present employees place most of the blame for the layoffs on the company’s huge NFL, MLB and NBA rights deals. The most frequent criticism heard last week dealt with the NFL contract, which is worth a whopping $1.9 billion per year — $800 million more than the NFL’s next biggest deal. Second-guessers believe ESPN had the leverage to cut a better deal and question whether another media company was within $500 million of ESPN’s offer. There aren’t many other networks that could afford to pay close to $2 billion per year for the NFL’s least competitive package.
“It’s been a total mismanagement of rights fees, starting with the NFL renewal,” said one former employee. “We overpaid significantly when it did not need to be that way, and it set the template to overpay for MLB and the NBA.”
ESPN doubled its annual payment for MLB to an average $700 million per year — a deal that gives ESPN just one playoff game per year. And next year, ESPN’s NBA deal takes effect. That’s the one that will see its average annual payout triple in cost to an average of $1.4 billion per year.
“You can’t keep spending on rights at high levels when the business model and fundamentals have changed,” another former ESPN employee said.
Alex Rodriguez discusses working as a studio analyst for Fox Sports.
Awful Announcing’s Matt Yoder gives his list of sport media rising stars for 2015
Congratulations to Gary D’Amato on being named sports columnist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Hey Gary, how about an analysis of the 2015 Writers Cup?
Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop details what it was like for him to leave the press box and watch a game in the stands.
An interview with Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald.
ESPN’s Sage Steele discusses the evolution of her career with Jeff Pearlman.
Praise for Steele’s work on NBA Countdown.
Kathy Connors, one of my favorite PR people, does a moving piece about lessons learned from taking care of her grandmother.
How New York Times writer wrote baseball game story in 1908 style.
Many media notes from Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News, including on the new HBO documentary on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.