If you watch ESPN, you have noticed in the last few years a shift in its programming. What was once live sports and sports news, has now become live sports, a little sports news, and lots of people yelling at each other.The most popular show in the screaming category is “First Take” on ESPN 2, a show that many feel caters to the lowest-common denominator. That show once again caused waves when one of its resident yellers, Stephen A. Smith, allegedly said the N-word during a live segment. Smith denies saying the word even though it was scrubbed from a subsequent re-airing of the episode.
What is bizarre to those who remember a more civil ESPN (kind of like remembering an MTV that actually showed music), is that not only is ESPN sticking with these garbage shows, they are actually adding more. The Big Lead recently uncovered ESPN’s plan to add yet another debate show to their already full stable of yelling and screaming.
But why does the Worldwide Leader in Sports “Embrace Debate!” (their words), when they do so many other things so well?
Simple: Yelling and screaming sells.
ESPN executive editor John A. Walsh recently appeared on Bill Simmons’ podcast “The B.S. Report.” And buried towards the end of the interview, debate shows came up:
“What’s really developed here is that [First Take] has hit a nerve because it has developed a debate personality…it’s hit ratings. And the reason is that these two personalities have clicked…I do think that there are places that debates can go that they haven’t gone so far. It will be something we should be looking at.”
Just like in Howard Stern’s movie “Private Parts” when it was revealed that people who hate Howard Stern listen to him more than people who love Howard Stern. The same can be said about shows like “First Take.”
On forums like Twitter, sports fans are constantly complaining about Stephen A. Smith and his partner-in-loudness Skip Bayless. ESPN knows that the people would not be complaining if they weren’t watching.
So it is not the complaining that will stop the decline in the maturity of the ESPN empire, it will only be if the complaining stops… And that’s not happening anytime soon.
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