ESPN is in the midst of  massive layoffs. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN is in the midst of massive layoffs. (Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

ESPN’s broken business model is the driving force behind this week’s massive layoffs. The WorldWide Leader has lost 10 million subscribers over the last five years and is paying exorbitant rights fees to broadcast the NFL and NBA. Rising costs combined with declining revenue isn’t a sustainable business model.

That harsh reality makes it appear as if ESPN’s plight was inevitable. Cable subscriptions are way down in the era of cord-cutting, meaning all networks are drawing from a smaller audience pool. There’s fewer eyeballs to go around.

Despite those troubling trends, ESPN is still available in more than 88 million households (as of December 2016). Even though its parent company, Disney, ordered executives to trim payroll, ESPN possesses more resources than most other media conglomerates. They have the tools to turn it around.

But their lackluster programming is preventing them from doing so.

Given the vast number of reporters who have been canned, it’s apparent ESPN is moving further away from news and veering more towards opinion. While that may cause haughty media critics to bemoan the direction of the industry on Twitter, it’s the right call. In today’s world, where information and highlights can be accessed instantaneously on social media feeds, there’s less of a thirst for news-based programming. Comcast SportsNet New England went through a similar overhaul earlier this year, in which it downsized its news department and expanded its nightly debate shows.

The problem with ESPN is, their studio shows don’t offer much in terms of disagreement or provocation. Outside of “First Take,” which now features Max Kellerman doing a poor man’s Skip Bayless impersonation alongside Stephen A. Smith, few of its programs showcase hosts with varying viewpoints. The exception is “Pardon the Interruption,” but ratings for the iconic program are down by more than 10 percent in comparison to last year.

On a recent edition of Sports Illustrated’s media podcast with Richard Deitsch, James Andrew Miller, who authored “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” predicted the network’s new weekday lineup. It includes:

6:00-7:00 a.m.: Re-airing of west coast “SportsCenter” with Neil Everett and Stan Verett

7:00-10:00 a.m.: Mike Greenberg’s new morning variety show

10:00-12:00 p.m.: “First Take”

12:00-1:00 p.m.: New show with Bomani Jones and Pablo Torre

1:00-6:00 p.m.: Afternoon programming, including Dan Le Batard’s “Highly Questionable,” “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption”

6:00-7:00 p.m.: “SC6″ with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith

Evenings: Live sporting events

11:00 p.m.: “SportsCenter”

Midnight: “SportsCenter” with Scott Van Pelt

The rumored Greenberg morning show seems especially problematic. Given all of the options for morning TV, including partisan cable news programs drawing record numbers in the Trump era, it’s difficult to find a constituency for Greenberg’s inoffensive style. The networks –– CBS, ABC and NBC –– already have the market cornered on breezy morning talk. It seems unlikely the milquetoast anchor would be able to offer anything different.

Most of the other offerings, such as Jones’ possible collaboration with Torre, feature hosts who are hold the same worldview: progressive east coast liberalism. In a recent memo, ESPN management seems to grant commentators more leeway to talk about polarizing social issues.

“Outside of ‘hard’ news reporting, commentary related to political or social issues, candidates or office holders is appropriate on ESPN platforms consistent with these guidelines,” the memo reads. “The topic should be related to a current issue impacting sports. This condition may vary for content appearing on platforms with broader editorial missions — such as The Undefeated, FiveThirtyEight and espnW. Other exceptions must be approved in advance by senior editorial management.”

Considering almost every political issue can be tangentially tied to sports –– just discuss athletes’ and coaches’ reactions to news topics –– that means ESPN opinion makers will probably only provide more social commentary from here on out. In doing so, they’ll risk further alienating a broad section of sports fans.

In right-wing corners of the Internet –– hello, Breitbart! –– ESPN’s seeming liberal bias is often chalked up as the No. 1 reason for the network’s decline. While that’s a false assertion, it’s likely somewhere on the list. Americans are so polarized these days, their viewing habits largely depend on political affiliation. Pew Research found 40 percent of Donald Trump’s voters, for example, watched Fox News as their main news source. Meanwhile, only three percent of Hillary Clinton voters said they turned to Fox first.

There’s nothing wrong with embracing politics, but outside of Will Cain, who occasionally appears on “First Take,” ESPN doesn’t feature any high-profile conservative commentators. That means their shows lack balance.

Perhaps the most shining example of this imbalance is the new “SportsCenter” offering with Hill and Smith. Even though “SC:6″ may have been one of the most heavily promoted shows in history, ratings are down 12 percent in comparison t0 2016. The reaction to the program has been harsh, too. Yahoo finance writer Daniel Roberts tweeted this week roughly 50 percent of the 3,000 comments he received on a story about ESPN’s layoffs were people pleading with the company to cancel “SC:6.”

There’s little ESPN can do to change the challenging business climate. But they are in control of their programming. And right now, their shows fail to appeal to a broad ideological audience. Racial and ethnic diversity is important, but diversity in thought is even more vital.

Blog Author: 
Alex Reimer
The mass lay offs at ESPN continue for a second day. And are you watching Chris Sale take on the Yankees or the NFL draft tonight?

[0:18:28] ... if it's a different level yet to be yes yes I've seen Tom Brady go to when he doesn't sign isn't surprised meets presently still don't. And outstanding but everything if they wanna watch this guy. ...
[0:19:29] ... be African it and you'll be active William LA accomplished on the ice hockey city near you you an average of sitting around waiting you sit near ought to be doing drafting in between but this ...
[0:21:12] ... NFL has already told. You can't cheat anymore if you do your fire fighters who have. I'm saying you can't leak out any of these is picks which they've done in the past. I love and ...
[0:26:41] ... in this money helps create that nobody will be going to the Tom Brady foundation that's true I don't believe it's okay it's only an apple or cut. Spitzer you know exactly where the money's going ...






The mass lay offs at ESPN continue for a second day. And are you watching Chris Sale take on the Yankees or the NFL draft tonight?

[0:18:28] ... if it's a different level yet to be yes yes I've seen Tom Brady go to when he doesn't sign isn't surprised meets presently still don't. And outstanding but everything if they wanna watch this guy. ...
[0:19:29] ... be African it and you'll be active William LA accomplished on the ice hockey city near you you an average of sitting around waiting you sit near ought to be doing drafting in between but this ...
[0:21:12] ... NFL has already told. You can't cheat anymore if you do your fire fighters who have. I'm saying you can't leak out any of these is picks which they've done in the past. I love and ...
[0:26:41] ... in this money helps create that nobody will be going to the Tom Brady foundation that's true I don't believe it's okay it's only an apple or cut. Spitzer you know exactly where the money's going ...






The Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley announced he was gay in a column seven years ago. But he says Bill Simmons tried to out him a decade earlier.

One more win for the C's means a ticket to the second round. But should we be feeling confident? The draft starts tonight and the Patriots don't seem to have any intention of participating in the first few rounds.
One more win for the C's means a ticket to the second round. But should we be feeling confident? The draft starts tonight and the Patriots don't seem to have any intention of participating in the first few rounds.

[0:22:45] ... the last minute. I would never be shocked because you deal would Bill Belichick and he always shows the poker face and he never gives you. Any evidence that he's gonna do something by the way just to grapple on TV during the Comcast broadcast last night. With my Tea Party general what you had stains on my TV screen. Mike is exciting Day-Lewis. Move into little outside. The bush Izod now we're talking pop and you know and it's it was trying to reach out afterwards but it but here's why. They don't even need this year just like Bill Belichick doesn't need and it's supposed to be great draft drawing up admitted that top heavy but it's got this is depth at ...
[0:24:33] ... It's that if another player goes knowing when a quick time Ryan Ryan Clark another great player. They put together a juggernaut of a football team this offseason and there twenty million dollars on the chair of the scalp. I think you just nailed it Bill Belichick will that this and he always does looks at things differently he said this tournament to do with the draft. Think these ...




Steve Buckley announced he was gay in 2011. (Photo provided)

Steve Buckley announced he was gay in 2011. (Photo provided)

The Boston Herald’s Steve Buckley announced he was gay in a column seven years ago. But he says Bill Simmons tried to out him a decade earlier.

During the debut episode of WEEI’s latest podcast, “Two Outs with Steve Buckley and Alex Reimer,” the longtime sports scribe describes his coming out process. While Buckley wasn’t publicly out until 2011, he says he didn’t make much of an effort to hide his sexuality when around friends and some co-workers.

Simmons, who was writing for the defunct AOL Digital Cities in the late 1990s and early 2000s, often wrote acerbic commentary about Boston sports media members. During that time period, Buckley says Simmons made several thinly veiled references to his sexuality on his blog. Most of Simmons’ work for Digital Cities, including the articles in question, have been expunged.

“I’ve never really talked about this before, but Bill, during that period, made several references to my sexual orientation,” Buckley said. “‘Oh, he’s the most popular sports writer in Provincetown’ –– ‘wink’ ‘wink.'”

Buckley says the barbs “devastated” him and caused some angst. He was planning on coming out in 2003, but then his mother passed away, causing him to push the announcement back. When he penned his column eight years later, Buckley says he decided to not hold any grudges.

“I made a decision when I came out –– ‘Blood is a big expense,’ to use a line from the Godfather,” he said. “I wasn’t going to go carrying baggage for the rest of my life. If I saw Bill right now, I would talk to him about it. … I wanted to prevent the next Bill Simmons from trying to out me. So I dealt with it, and I moved on.”

When Buckley did come out, Simmons recorded a podcast with LZ Granderson, an openly gay sportswriter for ESPN. In it, Simmons seemed unimpressed with the timing of Buckley’s announcement.

“In 2011, is it too little to come out and write a column that says, ‘I’m gay?,'” he asked.

After the column was published, Buckley says he read some criticism from members of the LGBTQ community who felt he was exploiting the work of activists who participated in the Stonewall Riots and other seminal moments in LGBTQ history. He explains the standard-bearers of the gay rights movement laid the groundwork for him to come out.

“Someone wrote a letter to the editor in a paper that someone sent me,” Buckley said. “The basic message was, there were people back in the 60’s and 70’s and the Stonewall Riots, fighting the good fight, the AIDS quote and all of that, and they did all of the heavy lifting and then I just kind of swooped in and took advantage of all of that. Those were the real heroes. To which I say, ‘absolutely.’ But here’s why they miss the point: All of those noble people, beginning with the people who fought the police at Stonewall back in ’69, why did they do it? They did it so I could come out. They did it for me.”

Blog Author: 
WEEI
Following the Sox loss to the Yankees, Lou comes out swinging on managers and writers alike.
Following the Sox loss to the Yankees, Lou comes out swinging on managers and writers alike.

[0:01:55] ... pressure was OK so you diversified he's out of the game but Chris Young. When the lefty comes in the game yes hello Chris Young in his pants and can't wait to get it yes it. And I don't understand like the first opportunity so you're down three runs a lefties on the mound you're down three runs. And and so Babin attendee walks the lead off the angle it's a double. Off the loss and a second and third nobody out down three runs Chris Young needs you bats and is not two outs we're you know. This is it any energy Christian Europe 83. Runs and before that connects small island is that the plea to number hole hitter who won't buck at it let's just get this straight bringing a case of Chapman. It's all it's all for one his career against chair. It just for just keep going Josh Rutledge is all 41 with a cane a walker Chris Young going to game was opened three wood OK so Mitch Moreland. Who. I had an idol this year we see in 231 against lefties in 3.3 against righty but last year you 277 against lefties to 21 against rights are being shown that. They did love his approach at the ladies shown he can hit lefties so you choose with nobody out. To pinch hit Chris Young for Mitch Moreland your four hole hitter Hanley and Jackie run deck but you're down three. Soul. Even he delivers what you want which almanac and but he did or did he grounded out and scored the one run you can put in you don't three. The debate the important hitters are about two to three meters away right but you get any it Jacqui good there did you get Josh Rutledge. And Marco Hernandez. Would you rather have Chris Young pinch hit for Kristen from Mitch Moreland. Oh would you be saving them down the lines annual down the ring it's admits ...
[0:04:30] ... Did you get alien Jackie he showed us yes and then adding Chris Young. You know hits for a wage does what Christian were scuffling to put points on the board and then. The joy it ...
[0:05:10] ... struggle against lefties to 31 this year you know we could see Chris Young was significant but sixty against lefties in symbol only one you can look back last year. Chris young's track record against lefties and very well how well I'll look back at last year's track record of lefties he did very well. So small and if you wanna go by last year's numbers Tiki used the issue is one guy not issues for the other and vice Versa. What was the rush to beat Chris Young hit beautiful hold it when you know it was gonna get down a rough which as you know one. Campbell Martin though he loves him against left and mark and Roberts did he can hit lefties I understand. But again this guy is nasty Chatman two to best shooters out there before hole hitter is better than you shouldn't owner obviously it was open minded. So keep Chris Young for a trip back to put to our first I just enjoy it pinch hit it picked up a if it got ...
[0:08:33] ... this year. Is how was this team going to react with no David Ortiz both in the club house and the way that certain pitchers will pitch around certain hitters. Where there's no David Ortiz in the lineup we know what Ortiz one. The leading a home run hitter on the Boston Red Sox it's possible he's ...






ESPN gutted its MLB coverage Wednesday, laying off several prominent reporters and analysts.