April 2, 2007

ESPN and Conflicts of Interest

Jeremy's post on the AFL brought up ESPN's newly found interest in Arena football. This is just the latest (and most egregious) example of ESPN coincidentally becoming interested in a particular sport right when it lands the coverage rights. We saw this happen with NASCAR and (in reverse) with the NHL.

It goes right to the heart of ESPN's credibility when it places more emphasis in its news programs on sports that it broadcasts. At least they haven't gone so far as to show bowling highlights on Sportscenter.

I thought there was a general consensus regarding Arena football that it was a poor product that was only interesting to people who play NFL Blitz and think there's not enough scoring in the NFL. Most real football fans would have rather watched an NFL Europe or CFL game than the Arena League.

But now that ESPN has a financial interest in the league, we see the Worldwide Leader trying to give some legitimacy to the league by showing highlights, cross promoting the league using ESPN Radio hosts, and using NFL analysts as the announcing crew. Something is not quite right about that. Last year the only thing ESPN cared about was that Jon Bon Jovi owned an Arena team, this year we get highlights and scores on Sportscenter?

George Solomon addressed some of these concerns in his ombudsman columns, but I'd like to see the new ESPN obmudswoman (I don't think that's a word) attack the conflict of interest concerns head on. ESPN needs to do a much better job of separating its news function from its broadcast and entertainment functions.

7 Responses:

J-Red said...

I would have liked a little more explanation regarding Solomon's departure. At first he had high-profile weekly columns on the website. Then he basically disappeared.

Brien said...

ESPN says it was a predetermined contract length. Two years seems like a short tenure, I would think it would take you 6 months just to learn enough to effectively comment on the culture.

Also, Solomon wrote monthly columns, not weekly. I kind of liked him, but I think he was too hard on issues that people don't care about (Suzy Kolber doing Chevy commercials), and not hard enough on things that drove people crazy (all TO and Bonds all the time).

J-Red said...

It really is a tough balance for ESPN. They're a news source and an entertainment channel at the same time. I feel much more strongly about holding ESPNews to a higher standard than SportsCenter.

Brien said...

I don't. I'd like to see ESPNews more closely tied to Sportscenter. I think they should also apply the news standards to Baseball Tonight and NFL Live. It can be entertaining, there can be commentary and opinions, but they need to have stricter standards.

I have a much bigger problem with ESPN interviewing actors who have new Disney movies on Sportscenter than I do with Fox planting actors from their new show in the stands during a baseball game they're broadcasting and then using it for a promo. Broadcasts of sporting events are entertainment, but Sportscenter should be news (with opinion and humor).

J-Red said...

The actors in the booth for ESPN during MNF was the worst aspect of the whole season. Can you imagine them doing that to Michaels and Madden? They'd ignore the actor and actually cover the game.

Awful Announcing- said...

Even weirder than that is the fact that Jaworski owns a team and is an announcer.

I had a tipster once tell me they got laughed at when they tried to send clips in for SportsCenter....now it's on all the time.

Brien said...

I didn't realize Jaws was involved with a team. I looked it up, and he's team president for the Philadelphia Soul (which is more of a conflict of interest than the owner, IMO). What happens if he bad mouths a player on an opposing team (possibly reducing his value) and then trades for him?

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