In the past few months ESPN has undergone a tumultuous period of contract negotiations with some of their biggest stars, all very much in the public eye, where they have won some and lost some big ones.
Erin Andrews (Fox), Jim Rome (CBS) and Michelle Beadle (NBC) bolted for rival networks seeking a headliner, while Stuart Scott, Scott Van Pelt, Adam Schefter, Mel Kiper Jr., Ed Werder and John Clayton have all re-signed multi-year deals.
In the past, re-signing on-air talent hasn’t been a press release worthy affair for the World Wide Leader, instead being handled quietly and with little fanfare. When was the last time we heard about Chris Berman’s contract… or Chris Fowler…or Karl Ravech…or Andrea Kremer?
But now you can read about these deals on USA Today, SI.com, The Huffington Post and any number of sports media blogs, rife with quotes from Senior Vice Presidents. If you aren’t a reader, you can download the ESPN Front & Center podcast dedicated to Scott’s re-signing.
Where have you gone fearless ESPN?
The Goliath of sports broadcasting has shifted their public relations strategy, seemingly to deflect the belief that they are struggling to retain top talent and feeling the pressure from their competition.
But doesn’t the very change in philosophy scream out that they are concerned?
My wife has long said to me, the most painful response to any antagonist is indifference. As soon as ESPN started reporting all of their signings publicly they stopped being indifferent, they acknowledged the flies buzzing around their head.
Fox, NBC & CBS are some pretty big flies, but it will still take time for any of them to compete with ESPN on a 24/7 basis. This battle has just begun, but at this pace you may be able to walk across the wide moat ESPN has built sooner than you think.
NFL is King of all Kings
Another clear conclusion from the ESPN signings is where their emphasis will continue throughout the year – the NFL. Each of these signings, outside of Van Pelt, are firmly entrenched in NFL coverage.
In an interview with Richard Deitsch of SI.com, ESPN senior vice president and executive producer Mark Gross explained the reasoning behind this focus, “”The NFL is 12 months a year and our fans cannot get enough news and information.”
Gross went on to laud the impact of Schefter and Kiper have had on NFL coverage, “This guy [Schefter] has changed the way NFL is reported in my opinion, to me, he is one of the more impact guys at the company.
“Nobody personifies the NFL draft like Mel Kiper, he’s incredibly well-respected by viewers and teams.”
Look for an expanded role for Dallas bureau reporter Werder, best known for “Brett Favre Watch” and Cowboys coverage. The 14-year ESPN veteran will hold a dual role of reporter and insider, breaking news on teams without a blue star on their helmet.
What do you think of ESPN’s decisions? Give us your thoughts below in the comment section.