Last year right before football season, ESPN analyst Tom Jackson retired from NFL Countdown. At the time, it just seemed like one of the few bright spots on unquestionably the worst NFL pregame show on the planet had decided he’d had enough of the clown car ESPN which had sat him right in the middle. But maybe there was something more nefarious going on.
Just last week ESPN did something that I didn’t believe possible; they fired NFL reporter John Clayton.
This followed up another unbelievable firing from just a month before, College Football and NASCAR analyst Dr. Jerry Punch.
If there were two guys I figured were absolutely untouchable during ESPN’s layoff death spiral, it’s those two guys. But here’s the problem. Not only did they lay off Clayton and Punch, they hired former NFL losers Chip Kelly and Rex Ryan.
So what the hell is ESPN doing?
Clayton is one of the most respected NFL reporters in the sport. He’s in the writer’s wing of the NFL Hall of Fame, for God’s sake. As far as NFL insiders, I’d rank him no lower than third behind the NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport and Clayton’s ESPN counterpart Adam Schefter. Clayton was so synonymous with the channel he was featured in his own This is Sportscenter commercial that remains a fan favorite years later.
Firing Punch might even be more egregious. Not once, not twice, but on three different occasions while covering NASCAR races, Punch had to actually save a driver’s life. One of them was Rusty Wallace back in 1988. The man was in Days of Thunder, for God’s sake.
Clayton and Punch are just two of more than 100 ESPN staff that have been forced to hit the bricks. And it’s hit every area of their product. Not even the short skirts are safe. There may not be a leggy, blonde sportscaster left in the city of Bristol, Conn.
— Dave Furst (@DaveFurst) June 4, 2017
ESPN is supposedly shedding money like crazy thanks to overpaying for sports rights and competition from FS1, CBS Sports Net and NBC Sports Net. They’ve shit away millions on trying to create a global demand for the X Games. They’ve also blown $72 million on rights to the WNBA with a six-year deal they signed in 2013. The WNBA can’t even fill up a stadium on its best night. How the hell are its rights worth $12 million a year?
ESPN is going to spend $8 billion in programming costs this year and has shed 15 million subscribers. According to some estimates, ESPN is expected to lose 10,000 subscribers this year alone. Why?
Well, it’s as simple as people dumping cable and satellite TV or going with cheaper packages because they can watch so much On Demand or online. ESPN is the most expensive non-premium cable network on your system. If you have the Worldwide Leader, $6.61 of your cable or satellite bill goes directly to them ever month. Contrast that to FS1’s 99 cents per household and you can see how ESPN might get moved around in packages as cable and satellite companies try so hard to keep their own subscriber base while offering cheaper and cheaper products. In all, the flagship ESPN channel will bring in $7.5 billion this year.
I guess you saw the news. After 23 years I won't be contributing to ESPN. Two words. Thank you. My bosses and co-workers are the best.
— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) May 31, 2017
ESPN isn’t just the main network, they generate money from all their other networks as well, which include ESPN2 ESPNU, ESPNNews, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, SEC Network and the Longhorn Network. While you could argue that all those networks dilute ESPN’s product, the fact is the way cable TV subsciptions work, the more channels you have, the more money you make. And the fact that none of those channels come with the same rights-related costs as the big dog, they’re just money machines. And they all cost significantly less per subscriber than ESPN’s $6-7. ESPN 2 costs around 83 cents. ESPN costs around 22 cents.
There’s an idea that ESPN’s sudden move left on the political spectrum is costing it subscribers. Really? Every channel on my satellite package (and I have all of them) leans left but Fox and its sub channels. You’re going to tell me a guy isn’t going to watch a baseball game because they showed a special on Caitlyn Jenner or Jackie Robinson before? Since when? It’s not like they hired Kathy Griffin and RuPaul to do play-by-play.
The ESPN business model isn’t the problem. It’s lucrative and will be even as it sheds subscribers. The problem is wasting money on people like Kelly and Ryan. How many failed NFL coaches and washed up players do you need on the dais?
Ed Werder and now John Clayton-what can ESPN be thinking letting go 2 of the best at what they do and 2 great guys.
— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) May 31, 2017
This year NFL Countdown will have four former NFL guys at the desk of the worst sports who on the planet with Samantha Ponder hosting. Not a single one of them; Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck, Charles Woodson and Rex Ryan, is worth the money.
NFL Primetime is even worse. You don’t even get the main Hasselbeck this time. We’re stuck with Tim, for God’s sake, along with Steve Young, Merril Hoge and Moss again. Of all those men, only Young and Hoge have any analysis of value to bring to the table.
Monday Night Countdown is a hodgepodge of both shows with Suzy Kolber hosting (who I love) with Young, Matt Hasselbeck, Moss and Woodson.
That is a murderer’s row of awful and that’s not even factoring in that ESPN fired Trent Dilfer and Jerome Bettis. And then there’s Mike Ditka who will now offer his “analysis” on Sportscenter instead of NFL Countdown. So it used to be worse.
ESPN’s best shows are the ones that will actually be affected by the layoffs. NFL Insiders will be bereft of actual insiders as Clayton, Ed Werder and Adam Caplan, Ashley Fox, Andrew Brandt, and Jarrett Bell have all been shitcanned. I really don’t see a reason for that show to come back.
Ed Werder gone, Trent Dilfer gone, John Clayton gone, Paul Kuharsky gone, Adam Caplan gone.
Adam Schefter walking into ESPN NFL office like pic.twitter.com/reZrWCVXCF
— Confuse-ius. (@A_A_Ron_Rodgers) May 31, 2017
Obviously, my focus is on football, but if ESPN is this easy with cold hard cash for washed up and useless NFL coaches and players, I’d expect they’d be just as stupid with their money when it comes to the MLB, NHL, NBA, NASCAR and everything else they cover.
I understand the urge to make some news by hiring some blowhard like Ryan, but ESPN is no longer competing with other networks for views. They’re competing with the internet, with guys like me, and one thing we’ve got the market cornered with here on the world wide web is loud, obnoxious assholes. Trust me. It’s how I keep a job.
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