If you truly wanna boycott the NFL and you wanna boycott ESPN, the notion that some guy sitting out there, or gal, and they decide, ‘you know what, I’m gonna cut my entire cable package because ESPN gave an award on a made-up show in July because there’s no sports, to a woman who used to be a man.
So I’m now not gonna have any cable TV at all and I’m gonna sit around at night and read books by candlelight like olden times because of that,’ that’s not happening.
And if you did that, than you’re so dumb that I can’t even pray for you because you’re beyond hope.
Lost in the response to SVP’s criticism was the curious timing of his commentary; just three days prior, on Tuesday, November 14th, it was announced that SVP signed a multiyear contract extension with ESPN:
ESPN has extended Scott Van Pelt with another multiyear deal.
Van Pelt, who hosts the midnight edition of SportsCenter and also is integral to the network’s golf coverage, is among ESPN’s best-known personalities. He also has managed to remain controversy-free at a time when the social media minefield continues to ensnare many of his colleagues.
If nothing else, the timing of SVP’s interview and contract extension leads me to believe that either 1) SVP felt the job security offered from his contract extension gave him the security blanket he needed to go political, or 2) the interview was an ESPN-sanctioned foray into politics for SVP, possibly as part of his new contract.
However, it indicates a marked change in SVP’s focus. Lauded for avoiding political discussion, or for discussing trivial “sports” items (Tim Tebow, LaVar Ball), SVP is one of the most well-liked personalities on ESPN in an age where viewers are always looking for something to hate about ESPN’s on-air talent:
His show is routinely the top-rated program among young men in its time slot. For the year, Van Pelt’s SportsCenter is averaging 181,000 male viewers age 18-34, followed by NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (99,000) and CBS’ The Late Show With Stephen Colbert (80,000), which both begin a half-hour earlier at 11:30 p.m. Van Pelt’s show also is up 20 percent year-over-year among total viewers.
It brings us back to SVP’s original commentary on ESPN and NFL boycotts, in which he referred to “cord cutters” as living “like olden times” because they don’t want to shell out top dollar for programming they hardly watch. It’s almost as if SVP is ignorant as to the no.1 reason behind ESPN’s decline – an exorbitantly-priced cable bill that is a direct result of ESPN’s programming, which is oftentimes not desired by customers.
As Free Market Shooter has pointed out in the past, sports programming is far and away the biggest line item in any cable customer’s bill:
Business Insider has articulated exactly how much more ESPN charges relative to its peers for sports programming:
If we look at sports networks available in more than 50% of cable and satellite TV homes, $9.06 of each monthly bill goes to ESPN’s top four networks (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network), whether the customer watches those networks or not, according to data from SNL Kagan (via Sports TV Ratings). The Fox Sports family of networks (FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network) are the next most expensive, with customers paying $1.86 each month for those networks combined. The stand-alone NFL Network is the only other sports entity charging more than $1.00 per month.
In the age of Netflix and internet-based streaming programming, SVP really believes that customers cancelling their cable packages are going back to “olden times” and not simply consuming programming elsewhere. More importantly, its almost as if he doesn’t realize that the high cost of ESPN’s programming is literally the catalyst that is driving many customers (read: those who have no interest in sports or sports programming) to streaming-based services.
More importantly, its almost as if SVP is unaware as to who is audience is – male sports fans. If you look at what a map of the 2016 election would look like if only males voted…
…you’ll see that it is very likely that a large percentage of SVP’s viewers are in the “conservative” demographic that he compared to Luddites with his insult.
As someone who subscribes to cable for the sole purpose of live sports, but has previously enjoyed SVP’s sports-focused commentary in shared content, I will definitely be thinking twice about giving SVP “views” after this interview. And while his commentary alone won’t lead me to “cut the cord”, the aggregation of all sports anchors injecting their political opinions into sports has led me to consider other avenues for live sports distribution, for the sole reason of not having to “pay” SVP and his ilk for their sports broadcasting with a side of political commentary.
SVP is one of many personalities that have needlessly damaged their platform for the sake of politics. When viewers tune into ESPN, they want sports commentary, not political discussion. If the viewer wants politics, they could turn on their preferred cable news network (which may or not be fake news). As a general rule, unless your business is political commentary, politics is bad for business. In a country as polarized as this one, the risk of pissing off 50% (or more) of your customers by default will almost certainly not outweigh whatever “benefit” political discussion could bring to a business’s bottom line.
Going a step further, the example being set by these anchors (and even by protesting NFL players) is that “on-the-job” political protest is an acceptable course of action. How many viewers would lose their job if they “took a knee” during any workplace event that involved celebrating our nation? Even worse, would ESPN’s viewers be more likely to lose their job for expressing a differing (read: conservative) political opinion at the workplace?
ESPN needs all the help it can get given the current climate surrounding cord-cutting, and top anchor SVP joining the lines of on-air talent denigrating conservatives is doing the network no favors. For ESPN, this will almost certainly lead to more and more downsizing…
…and though SVP’s popularity (and his new contract) may save him from the unemployment line, the same won’t be said of many of his colleagues, who are expected to be removed in yet another round of layoffs coming before the end of the month.
Perhaps there is a point in keeping your politics and business separate?