ESPN TRYING TO SURVIVE THE CHANGING TIMES

I enjoy watching the talk shows on ESPN much more than any of the sporting events or programs featuring either a sports figure or a specific location of these sporting events.

As a frequent viewer of ESPN, I was concerned of the blockbuster news last week that ESPN gave pink slips to over 100 of their employees, many who have been around that network for a long time.

The first was Chris Berman, who was involved in the network’s initial program back in 1979. Berman announced recently on the air that he was leaving the network—perhaps retiring—but the truth is that the ESPN hierarchy TOLD Berman he had a choice to either retire or be let go.

The same was true for Ed Werder, who gave reports about an important NFL game right at the stadium a couple of hours before the kickoff.

The network, which was founded in 1979, didn’t begin airing professional basketball until 1982 and the National Football League by 1987–when its long-running Sunday Night Football franchise began– according to an article that appeared Monday in the Bloomberg View.

“ESPN showed that major sports events did not have to air only on the legacy networks like NBC and CBS. No cable distributor could do without it,” the article pointed out.

In 1996 Walt Disney Co. bought Capital Cities/ABC and its ESPN franchise and used the sports channel as a battering ram to force cable companies to accept price increases for other channels Disney owned like ABC Family, Disney Junior and ESPNU and also raised the cost of ESPN itself.

“Only and handful of cable channels get more than $2 a month per cable subscriber; ESPN charges over $7 a month per cable subscriber. When you throw in the rest of the ESPN channels, that number approaches $10,” the article concluded.

Of course ESPN received inflated demands from professional sports leagues and college conferences like the $1.9 billion a year ESPN pays the NFL for one game a week. which is twice what any other network pays to air professional football, and the 12-year, $7.3 billion contract ESPN signed for the rights to the college football playoffs.

Also, the NBA costs $1.4 billion a year and the new TV deal with the Big Ten cost ESPN $2.64 billion over six years, which makes it annual content cost of more than $7 billion.

Over the last four years, because of the price increases, ESPN has lost around 12 million subscribers, from over 100 million to 88 million which costs it well over $1 billion in annual revenue, according to the article. It still remains profitable, but it’s not a reliable cash cow for Disney that it once was.

So when ESPN fired 100 employees, which is mere chump change, it served mainly to show ESPN’s hierarchy and Disney’s overlords on Wall Street that they are really trying to right the ship.

The drop in ESPN subscribers can be directly the blame of the internet by magnifying the flaws of the cable and exploiting them. The main flaw is that consumers had to pay for channels they never used and pay for the most expensive channel in the bundle. Now they don’t.

The internet’s popularity of streaming allowed many subscribers to leave, and forced many cable companies to offer “skinny bundles” that don’t include ESPN. They can get the highlights of yesterday’s games on You Tube, Twitter and other on-line outlets.

Most of ESPN’s cutbacks involved reporters and writers, with ESPN’s popularity switching to sports talk shows with such daily shows as “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman debating hot current topics.

Then at 4 p.m. “Around the Horn” airs where big-name newspaper sports writers give their opinions on selected topics and are awarded points for their views by the moderator.

This half-hour show is followed by “Pardon the Interruption” where Tony Kornhiser and Mike Wilbon debate selected current sports issues.

For every sports event I watch on ESPN, I view 10 sports talk show. I must be like the average sports fan, which must be the main reason the network had to make their cutbacks last week.

KWICKIES…It’s not very often that a golfer shoots his age instead of his weight, but 82-year-old Bob Hoepner did exactly that Sunday at Sunset Grove Country Club in Orange when he fired rounds of 30-41—80. Witnessing the event was me (the happy partner) and Craig Couvillion, who had to reach into his wallet.

If a railbird did his homework and scrutinized the Kentucky Derby field carefully, he should have come up with the winning horse, Always Dreaming. This horse ran well in the mud and liked to take the lead. This was a perfect combination because the lead horses are the only ones that don’t get mud slung on them. Always Dreaming paid $11.40 to win, $7.20 to place and $5.80 to show, which means that a $10 bet across the board would have resulted in a $122 payday. Always Dreaming along with runner-up Lookin At Lee and 13th place Girvin are the only Derby horses to commit to run in the Preakness on May 20 in Baltimore.

The Houston Astros returned from the Left Coast and chalked up two more series victories over Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels, upping their series record to 8 of 10. The Astros began a short two-game series with Atlanta Tuesday at Minute Maid Park which concludes this afternoon (Wed.) at 1:10 p.m, the first two games of 22 that will be played outside the AL West Division. Houston went into the Atlanta series with a 22-11 record, mostly against division foes.

Big John Daly, who wears real weird outfits on the golf course, won his first PGA Champions Tour event last weekend played at The Woodlands Country Club Tournament Course. Although he has been on the Senior’s tour for a year, he played the course in 14-under par by posting scores of 68-65-69—202 to pocket the $322,500 winner’s check.

The Houston Rockets tied the series at 2-2 Sunday with a 125-104 victory over the San Antonio. The winner of this best-of-seven series may be determined by the winner of last night’s game at San Antonio, who has the best shot at advancing in the NBA Western Conference semi-finals.

JUST BETWEEN US…A tip of the Korner Kap to the five local teams still alive in the state baseball and softball tournaments. Baseball action begins 7 p.m. tomorrow between the Bridge City Cardinals and Liberty at Port Neches-Groves. The action resumes Friday at Crosby. Orangefield will meet Hardin-Jefferson 5 p.m. Friday at Port Neches-Groves and then at 2 p.m. Saturday at Crosby. The district champion West Orange-Stark Mustangs will meet Tarkington 7 p.m. Friday at Baytown Sterling and 4 p.m. Saturday at Jasper. In girls’ softball, the Lady Cardinals of Bridge City will take on Hardin Jefferson 6 p.m. today (Wed.) and 5 p.m. Thursday. All games will be played at Port Arthur Memorial field. Little Cypress-Mauriceville will clash with Huntington 7 p.m. Thursday at Kirbyville and noon Saturday at Jasper. Good Luck to all the local teams!!!