ESPN’s new executive vice president for content is apparently no fan of President Donald Trump.
That is is the assessment of Fox Sports host Clay Travis in a piece he wrote for his Outkick the Coverage blog headlined “ESPN Promotes Boss Who Hates Donald Trump To Number Two In Company.”
Along with colleague Jason Whitlock, Travis has long been a critic of the leftward drift of the self-named Worldwide Leader in Sports as they and others see it.
For whatever reason or combination of reasons, Disney-owned ESPN reportedly loses about 10,000 cord-cutting subscribers everyday. Cable and satellite providers charge each customer $7 a month for the ESPN channels, so the loss of income for ESPN is massive. The red ink resulted in April layoffs of about 100 public-facing employees, including on-air anchors, commentators, and website writers.
ESPN is still on the hook for $7 billion-$8 billion in telecast rights fees to the NFL, NBA, MLB, and various college leagues this year alone amidst ongoing subscriber erosion and a reported ratings decline of 16 percent.
The increasing political content on ESPN has allegedly taken a toll on viewership, and by extension, revenue, according to some media industry observers. A study by market research firm Deep Root Analytics, for example, suggests that right-leaning viewers are bailing on ESPN as it delves more into social commentary from a liberal/progressive perspective rather than concentrating on live games and game highlights for fans who seek an escape from day-to-day worries.
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Deep Root Analytics maintains that across 43 markets, and even including the big U.S. liberal cities, the ESPN audience became 5 percent less Republican in 2016 over 2015, but the most dramatic change was felt on ESPN News, “whose audience became 36% less Republican and more Democratic.”
In writing about the recent promotion of Connor Schell, the former Emmy-winning 30 for 30 showrunner who will now be overseeing all television, digital, and print content for ESPN, Clay Travis shared these thoughts about the exec’s Twitter feed which mostly seems comprised of retweets.
“Within a few minutes of that announcement conservative ESPN employees were sending me messages asking me to check out Connor Schell’s Tweets from back during the election. And I know this is going to completely shock you guys, but it turns out that Connor Schell is a huge left winger who expressed public disgust on his Twitter account over the election of Donald Trump and endorsed the idea that Trump oppresses minorities, women, and gays.”
Schell will report to ESPN President John Skipper at the Bristol, Connecticut-based network.
Travis, a lawyer who describes himself as a radical moderate who has never voted Republican, continued.
“…Look Connor Schell may be a very good and talented guy, but the truth of the matter is this — he’s a left wing political zealot who was comfortable enough at ESPN that he was okay with publicly violating the rules he’s helped promulgate for employees and their own political views. And he gets promoted for it…How can you possibly trust ESPN to make fair editorial decisions when the executives in charge of the product hate Donald Trump and his supporters?”
In an essay on the ESPN website published in December 2016, public editor (i.e., ombudsman) Jim Brady conceded that the network has moved in a leftward direction, alienating some viewers.
In mid April, Brady wrote that this trend will continue with management’s blessing. “ESPN has made it clear: It’s not sticking to sports.”
In a late April tweet, Brady asserted that ESPN’s financial challenges are mainly the result of cable unbundling, but politics also factor into the scenario as a secondary cause.
Clay Travis also claims that the progressive social justice tone of ESPN content is partially a function of Disney CEO Bob Iger’s supposed interest in running for president as a Democrat against Trump in 2020.
[Featured Image by Jessica Hill/AP Images]