Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, August 12, 2021

Not that there was much left to munch on, especially after Monday Night Football flew the broadcast-network coop. From here on out, broadcasts by ABC Sports will be ESPN-branded, effectively erasing any distinction left between the two Disney-owned entities.

Naturally, there was much grousing amid the eulogizing:

The path to the end of ABC Sports might have started with losses from the Calgary Games in 1988. Or it might have been Capital Cities’ refusal to fully back bids by Dennis Swanson, Arledge’s successor, to acquire the TV rights to the 1992 and 1996 Summer Olympics, which were signature purchases for NBC.

“They didn’t just short Dennis,” [retired ABC Sports announcer Keith] Jackson said. “They cut him off.”

Or perhaps it was ESPN adopting “Monday Night’s” graphics and music for “Sunday Night Football.” Dan Dierdorf, then on “Monday Night,” told Sports Illustrated, “We felt it was our fields that were being burned and our villages that were being plundered.” And maybe it was Gifford’s move from the “Monday Night” booth to an ESPN Zone to introduce features.

Certainly, ESPN could have swallowed up ABC Sports 11 years ago when the Walt Disney Company acquired Capital Cities, a deal that came with the ABC network and an 80 percent stake in ESPN. But first the sales departments of ESPN and ABC Sports merged several years ago, followed a year ago by the consolidation of their marketing and production departments. All the while, ESPN voices like Chris Berman, Mike Tirico, Brad Nessler and Dan Patrick leaped over to ABC.

Certainly, the ghost of Howard Cosell is howling mad.

But the hand-wringing over ESPN’s usurpation of the one-time king of TV sports really is rooted in an outdated perception of the televised sports landscape. The boundary between cable and broadcast effectively disappeared more than a decade ago, so who cares if a former minor-league channel is now top dog? You go with the brand that reels them in, and ESPN undisputedly does that for sports.

The only potential downside I can see: The de-emphasis of ABC could hinder the prized cross-promotion that sports programming achieves for other network shows. True, promos for sitcoms and such will still run during ABC’s sporting events (and on ESPN’s, even), but if the ABC brand isn’t obvious — and it doesn’t sound like it will be — that may lead to confusion.

That said, by this watermark moment, I’m surprised the other networks haven’t mustered up sports-exclusive branding for their sports programming. CBS, NBC, and Fox still stolidly trudge on with their “_____ Sports” departments, while being left in the dust by the clearly single-purpose ESPN. Why no imitators? (Fox long ago buried the SportsChannel property that it had acquired; once upon a time, it was an early competitor to Bristol.) Maybe this development will spur efforts toward a reoriented challenger.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/12/2021 07:29:51 PM
Category: Sports, TV
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I don’t know why I never made the stylistic connection between the Jesus Fish car emblems and the support ribbon car magnets before now. Side-by-side, it’s so obvious.

Retail-wise, others already sniffed out the overlapping market potential.

Next step: Do a study of how many vehicles sport both ichthus and ribbon — particularly of the support-our-troops variety. I’m going to bet it’s a bunch.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/12/2021 06:37:40 PM
Category: Creative, Society
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