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ESPN’s crisis of concussion conscience goes deeper than NFL pressure

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When it comes to last week’s news that ESPN bailed on a concussion joint-venture with PBS, the easy explanation is that the NFL affirmatively pushed ESPN in that direction.  But the easy explanation may not be the correct explanation.  Or at least not the full explanation.

As Peter King points out in his latest Monday Morning Quarterback column, the NFL can’t do much to ESPN, which is paying well over $1 billion per year for the ability to broadcast Monday Night Football through 2021.  While ESPN needs the NFL more than the NFL needs ESPN, the NFL still needs ESPN; there’s no other cable channel that can pay that kind of money.

After reading King’s take on the situation, I obeyed the link at the bottom of the page and read the latest insightful report on the NFL-ESPN-PBS mess from Richard Deitsch of SI.com.  Deitsch’s column eventually endorses the excellent report from Richard Sandomir, James Andrew Miller, and Steve Eder of the New York Times regarding ESPN’s massive influence over college football.  And so I clicked that story and began to read it.

Here’s the moment where the light flickered:  “This season, ESPN channels will televise about 450 college games. ESPN’s closest competitor, Fox, will show 50 on various networks.”

ESPN ultimately didn’t back away from the PBS collaboration because it potentially hurts the NFL’s interests in the concussion litigation brought by former players.  In our view, ESPN backed away because ESPN doesn’t want to be directly associated with work that could choke off the supply of the boys who’ll suit up in those 450 college football games per year.

Now isn’t the time for ESPN to have a Pinkman-style crisis of conscience regarding its own brand of meth-making.  The powers-that-be in Bristol, who by virtue of their ownership by Disney ultimately answer to a board of directors and in turn to shareholders, need to stay the course that has made ESPN worth a whopping $40 billion.

Take away 17 regular-season NFL games, and subscription fees in excess of $5 per month per home will drop.  Take away 450 college football games, and the monthly charge plummets.

ESPN has built its empire in large part on college football.  If college football goes away, or if at a minimum becomes diminished, that hurts ESPN a lot more than the NFL ever could.

ESPN didn’t need pressure from the NFL.  ESPN simply needed a wake-up call.  And it’s quite possible the NFL provided it.

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19 Responses to “ESPN’s crisis of concussion conscience goes deeper than NFL pressure”
  1. sdcameron says: Aug 26, 2013 1:57 PM

    Breaking Bad is so damn good even people writing an article about concussions are bringing it up.

  2. newmarketmaulers says: Aug 26, 2013 2:01 PM

    I’m delatey watching the new season of Breaking Bad. Heavens to Betsy if I stumble into what happens because I read one of your posts.

  3. pnut87 says: Aug 26, 2013 2:03 PM

    I feel bad for that kid, he’s gonna live with that picture of him in a Jaguar get up for the rest of his life now…

  4. westampa says: Aug 26, 2013 2:04 PM

    Unless you hav a bunch of people clicking on the “Pro Soccer Talk” link above, then you may be wise to shut up about it as well.

  5. mogogo1 says: Aug 26, 2013 2:06 PM

    Great article right up until the conclusion, which is totally counter-intuitive. What wake up call? If they’re ultimate goal is to protect college football (which is very plausible), they’ll have no reason to engage in any journalism that will negatively impact football, college or pro. There’s no wake up call, just business as usual.

  6. grudenfan says: Aug 26, 2013 2:17 PM

    This is an embarrassingly bad attempt to make ESPN look awful.

  7. johnnyoclock says: Aug 26, 2013 2:18 PM

    5$ per subscriber? How many people are paying for ESPN without wanting it?

    This is why we need to revamp the television industry to where we decide what we want or at the very least offer packages of x amount of channels on a tiered system and thesubscriber picks the system.

  8. shackdelrio says: Aug 26, 2013 2:19 PM

    ”This season, ESPN channels will televise about 450 college games. ESPN’s closest competitor, Fox, will show 50 on various networks.”

    I think ESPN shows 50 bowl games.

  9. thehuckster404 says: Aug 26, 2013 2:22 PM

    Until someone dies on a college or NFL field during the course of a game, productions like this will have little to no effect on public perception of the dangers of the game. Furthermore, youth in this country that have the physical ability and talent to play, will play. Where else can they get a free education, instant popularity on campus, and a chance for an annual salary that most Americans will never ever achieve?

  10. andrejohnsonforpresident says: Aug 26, 2013 2:27 PM

    I knew Disney had to have some sort of say in this! It really is Disney just not trying to lose money.

  11. 49erstim says: Aug 26, 2013 2:28 PM

    Are we to assume that you sent a letter of apology to Roger Goodell and the NFL?

  12. harrisonhits2 says: Aug 26, 2013 2:31 PM

    ESPN’s crisis of concussion conscienceESPN’s crisis of concussion conscience
    ________________________

    BSPN and conscience in the same sentence, now there’s an oxymoron !

    grudenfan says:

    This is an embarrassingly bad attempt to make ESPN look awful.
    ___________________

    Since when have they ever needed help to look awful ? There’s a reason I don’t have that network in my favorites on the tv or do I ever have it on my screen.

    BSPN, the worldwide joke of sportscasting

  13. delmonte55 says: Aug 26, 2013 3:06 PM

    I am sure NBC has no vested interest as well…see Notre Dame Football.

  14. Mr. Wright 212 says: Aug 26, 2013 3:45 PM

    newmarketmaulers says: Aug 26, 2013 2:01 PM

    I’m delatey watching the new season of Breaking Bad. Heavens to Betsy if I stumble into what happens because I read one of your posts.
    ————–

    Last night’s episode. Just stay off Twitter and message boards and you’ll be alright.

  15. marvsleezy says: Aug 26, 2013 3:48 PM

    Everything you said about ESPN needing college football was true when they agreed to do the concussion story.

    Why would it take a visit from Goodell to cause them to cut the story? You think thats a coincidence? Hes reps the NFL not the NCAA. They cut the project after the meeting – This is as simple as it looks. THis was an NFL move not a college one.

  16. silentcount says: Aug 26, 2013 4:15 PM

    There are exceptions, but PBS is backed mainly by those wanting to ban anything the least bit dangerous. They would rather us sit safely at home playing video games and watching nature shows. If they ran things we’d be a nation of wimps until another country to us over. Thank goodness ESPN saw fit not to provide an avenue for their passive propaganda.

  17. bobzilla1001 says: Aug 26, 2013 7:41 PM

    I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again: ESPN is in the process of killing off football. The network would like nothing better than for the NBA to catapult to the top of the nation’s popularity chart.
    ESPN’s constant allegation against football is both irresponsible and inaccurate. There is zero proof that former football players develop memory loss or dementia more frequently than the average person. There is zero evidence that former football players’ life expectancy is shorter than the average person.
    I’ve never understood why the bleeding hearts haven’t started a crusade against the most obvious of all barbaric brutality: the UFC.

  18. mrsryansfamoustoejam says: Aug 26, 2013 10:22 PM

    I guess some believe that football should be eliminated in favor of Monday Night Torts, an exciting program pitting opposing trial attorneys against one another in auto accident and slip and fall actions.

  19. Mr. Wright 212 says: Aug 27, 2013 1:20 PM

    mrsryansfamoustoejam says: Aug 26, 2013 10:22 PM

    I guess some believe that football should be eliminated in favor of Monday Night Torts, an exciting program pitting opposing trial attorneys against one another in auto accident and slip and fall actions.
    ————-

    As a member of the legal community, this nearly caused me to faint laughing. +5.

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