Is ESPN unraveling?

I don’t know, but it’s certainly hurting. Clay Travis reports:

Two years ago ESPN cut several hundred behind the scenes jobs to save hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly costs. Since that time ESPN’s subscriber losses have accelerated, averaging over three million lost subscribers a year. Now new jobs cuts are coming, only this time you’re likely to know some of the casualties — different sources [say] that ESPN is cutting up to $100 million in on-air salaries.

Yep, on air. This means you’re going to know many of the people leaving the network.

But don’t worry. You’ll be seeing more women in front of the camera. John Skipper, the left-winger who runs ESPN, has directed that more women appear in “front-facing positions” during NFL coverage. If he doesn’t pay them what the departing males earned, there may be a pay discrimination suit in ESPN’s future.

Why is ESPN in so much trouble? Mainly because people are “cutting the cable.”

Travis explains:

Over the past several years ESPN has lost over 13 million cable and satellite subscribers. Given that each subscriber pays ESPN in the neighborhood of $7 a month for the network [a goodly portion of the monthly cable bill], that’s over a billion dollars a year in lost revenue that will never be recouped.

And those losses aren’t stopping. Indeed, every single day in 2017 ESPN is losing 10,000 subscribers or more.

At the same time that ESPN has been hemorrhaging subscribers, the network has also been paying incredible sums of money for live sports rights. In fact, ESPN will pay out $7.3 billion for sports rights in 2017, that’s more than any company in America will pay for media content.

This means that at some point in the near future the network will start to lose money. It’s as inevitable as Skip Bayless comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan every day for the next five years.

Under Skipper’s leadership, ESPN has tried to overcome this math by veering left, politically. I noted this phenomenon here, in a post called “Read more, watch ESPN less.”

As Travis puts it:

A desperate grab for relevance that has led to a pronounced leftward move. ESPN’s trying desperately to stay relevant as ratings collapse and subscribers flee. The decision? [Become] MSESPN, the home for far left wing politics and sports!” Only, it’s not working.

Nor could it reasonably be expected to work. Alienating half or more of your audience with left-wing clap-trap and non-stop obsessing over race is hardly a sound plan for maintaining market share. In the words of Michael Jordan, Republicans buy sneakers too.

Given the irrationality, from a business perspective, of moving leftward, I suspect that Skipper did it because that’s where he wanted ESPN to be, not because he thought it would help his company.

ESPN’s decline and potential unraveling could have major implications for the salaries professional athletes make. The enormous contracts pro athletes receive are underwritten by television revenue.

A team can only bring in so many paying customers and there are limits to what those customers can be charged. Until now, by contrast, television revenue has seemed boundless. (As noted above, ESPN alone will pay $7.3 billion for sports rights this year.)

No longer. The bubble may soon burst.

The NBA, another left-leaning organization, may be first to feel the pain. ESPN gave it what Travis calls “the worst TV contract in the history of sports.” (Skipper is said to be a good friend of NBA commissioner Adam Silver.) It was “ a deal so lucrative for the NBA that every cable and satellite subscriber in the country, the vast majority of whom will never watch an NBA game, is paying over $30 a year for the NBA.” In case you were wondering, “that’s how Mike Conley can make over $30 million a year.”

It turns out, he’ll be making that money at the expense of on-air ESPN personnel who soon will hit the street. I feel sorry for them, but I’m not sorry that “MSESPN,” Skipper’s left-wing organ, is in trouble.

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