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ESPN vs. NewsCorp: Healthy Competition or Lost Cause?

Any sports fan can recognize the SportsCenter jingle. In the sporting world, it’s as recognizable as the one used by Empire Carpeting (you totally just sang it, didn’t you?).

SportsCenter has been the flagship program of ESPN (“Entertainment and Sports Programming Network” for those of you who were curious) since the network launched in 1979. This ABC/Disney owned network is your destination if you want to find out the final score of the Bulls game, or to see highlights from a superstar’s press conference welcoming him to New York (for the non-sporties out there: New York teams pay ungodly amounts of money to buy players and give themselves an unfair advantage).

ESPN has the sole rights to Monday Night Football

ESPN has the sole rights to Monday Night Football

They have a virtual stranglehold on the sports market (at least the sports that matter… Sorry, hockey). News Corp. is trying to change that.

Comcast’s NBC Sports Network and CBS’s Sports Network have attempted to dethrone ESPN as the runaway #1, but haven’t fared too well, mainly because of broadcasting rights. ESPN has the sole rights to Monday Night Football (a weekly ratings juggernaut, regardless of how crappy the teams are… Cleveland Browns, I’m looking at you), as well as national basketball and baseball games.

So what will News Corp. have to do to put a chink in ESPN’s armor? (tip: don’t use racist headlines)

1) Show sports people want to watch.

As exciting as the Amateur Curling Championships sound, they won’t garner an audience that’ll bring in big advertising revenue. And I swear, every time I turn on NBC Sports Network, skiing is on! There’s only so many times I can watch rich white people slide down a giant hill before I start praying for an avalanche to make things really interesting.

Acquiring these broadcast rights is tougher than it seems. ESPN already owns the rights to many of the popular professional and collegiate leagues, and they are always locked up with long-term contracts.

However, last year News Corp. secured the rights to two big college conferences: The Pac-12 and the Big 12, which is at least a step in the right direction. They also won the rights to the World Cup in 2018 and 2022 (apparently they missed the memo that America hates soccer).

2) Bring in credible reporters.

Adam Schefter

Adam Schefter

ESPN has been around a long time. Their reporters know what they’re doing, and as a result most teams know them. This allows them to get the scoop before it’s made public. ESPN’s Adam Schefter will always get the scoop before News Corp.’s Joe The Plumber.

If News Corp. is able to bring in reporters with a reputation of professionalism and excellence in sports journalism, they would start breaking more news and be seen as a credible source, not just as a ‘TMZ’ of the sports world.

3) Hire charismatic anchors.

Likeable characters help every show succeed. A sports network needs a flagship like SportsCenter is for ESPN. To get people to stay tuned in, you need entertaining and knowledgeable anchors hosting. Do you really want the “Boom Goes the Dynamite” guy reading you the latest news?

These anchors will be the face of your franchise. You had better choose wisely.

4) No East Coast bias!

Any sports fan west of Bristol, Connecticut knows what I’m talking about. ESPN has been known to forget sports exist outside of the New York and Boston area. The amount of attention the teams from those two cities get can drive a small-market fan crazy (or even a large market fan like those in Chicago or Los Angeles).

A key to success could potentially lie west of the Mississippi. If News Corp.’s network can gain the viewership of the heartland and the Pacific Coast, we might be in for a Miracle on Ice upset when it comes to the Champion of sports networks.

It’ll be an uphill battle for News Corp. as the company stands up to the big dog. They have a lot of obstacles to overcome if they want to give ESPN a run for their money, but if they make the right moves, there’s an abundance of sports fans who always seem to root for the underdog. (Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!)

Do you agree or disagree with my points? Will News Corp. really be able to compete with ESPN?

Image credit to Rob Poetsch, matt44053, and justinwalsh37.


Alex Brodsky

Alex is a video specialist and blogger at Quality Logo Products, putting his media background and screenwriting training to good use. When he's not working, he enjoys tinkering with his fantasy sports lineups, engaging in cheeky shenanigans, and cuddling. He must also get all of his caffeine from pop as he can't stand coffee. You can also connect with Alex on Google+.

Comments

  1. Doc

    First off, seeing Adam Schefter’s face just makes me cringe. I absolutely hate his condescending tone when he reports the obvious without even making a claim to anything groundbreaking!!!! I would rather have seen good ole Mort than Schefty.

    With that said, the monopoly that ESPN has is almost insurmountable. They have the rights to almost EVERYTHING sports fans care about. NBC sports needs to ride this hockey thing out and hope that with the Olympics this summer, they can parlay that momentum into the NFL season and maybe score another big TV contract during the greedy collegiate athletics cash grab we’re politely calling “Conference Re-Alignment”. They’ve brought in enough big names (See Dan Patrick, Peter King, “Doc” Emrick, and Tony Dungy) and have as many, if not more, channels to work with as ESPN. So, I think they have the best shot of dethroning E(ast coast)SPN but it will take some serious cash to take them down.

    Great post, Alex!

    • Alex Brodsky

      It’s certainly going to cost a lot of cash for NBC. I would love to see them get recently fired Keith Olbermann and reunite him with Dan Patrick. That is a late night sports show I would CERTAINLY tune in for.

      But I must agree, I’m fairly certain the lead ESPN has built cannot be topped. They would need to make a serious of glaring miscues, mistakes, and all around poor choices and I just don’t see that happening. Disney is far too sharp (and has been for some time now) to let anything like that happen.

  2. Jeff Porretto

    DAMMIT! You totally got me. I definitely sang the jingle to myself.

    As much as I despise the (E)astern (S)eaboard (P)rogramming (N)etwork (seriously these jokes exist because they’re true) at times, I still rely on them because they are the best around. I can’t how many times I’ve watched comcast sports only to see them screw up the recap of a game and manage to not show the best highlights.

    So I think you’re points are spot-on. Get likeable people on air, and get it produced by someone who knows what they’re doing. If they’re prepared for a few years of just scraping by, maybe they can catch a big break, and put a dent in ESPN’s market share. I would LOVE to see it. Enough of the “Boo-yahs” already.

    Good one Alex!

    • Alex Brodsky

      It’s true. ESPN is first because it’s the best. As far as quality goes, no other network comes close.

      I’m ready for a change though, but I don’t think it’s coming.

  3. Candice J.

    SPOOOOOOOOOORTS! I’m going to be real here I’m probably one of a very small group of women that actually watch ESPN (mainly sportscenter). I will watch whatever sports station shows me the best recap of the top 10 plays of the day. But i feel they stand a chance. Will they succeed? At this point that’s anybody’s guess but at least they are willing to give it a try!

    Great post Alex!!!

    • Alex Brodsky

      GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL!

      Competition brings out the best in people. I would be happy if a network could overtake ESPN, but if it just forces ESPN to better itself, then that’s good enough for me.

  4. Mandy Kilinskis

    The only sports broadcast that I will go out of my way to watch is the Olympics, so I guess that’s a step for NBC. (A small, small step, but one nonetheless…)

    I’m afraid I can’t give a very insightful comment here, but competition is always a good thing in TV! I’d love to see a channel rival ESPN – especially since ESPN is ignoring the rest of the country.

    • Alex Brodsky

      Are you excited you’ll get to see a ton of Ryan Seacrest at the Olympics now? That guy has WAY too many jobs.

  5. Jaimie Smith

    I probably do not have the most valued opinion of this considering I do not watch sports 24/7. But growing up with an older brother, I do have a fair share of the facts. ESPN believe it or not does entertain me, there’s never a time where I am at my brother’s and it’s NOT on, so it’s almost like I am forced to like it, but I think they do a pretty good job. Thats all I will say because I do not wanna say anything that I do not have any backup to, lol.

    • Jaimie Smith

      Oh and PS. I really do not think you are “Fing weird” as I said in the meeting, I just needed an example and knew you wouldnt get offended by it lol.

      • Alex Brodsky

        Haha. No need to apologize cause, let’s face it, it’s pretty true. I’ve come to terms with my weirdness and have figured out how to use it to entertain myself. And that’s really all that’s important.

  6. Jen

    If Champ Kind was on ESPN I would watch.

  7. Eric

    Until they’ve a network to give the sport of curling the exposure it deserves…all else is lost, and I’m stuck waiting another four years until the next Winter Olympics. #NEEDZMAHCURLINGFIX

  8. Bret Bonnet

    Boomshakalaka!

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