Friday, May 8, 2015

Changes Afoot At ESPN

Is something up internally at ESPN?  Last week, we learned that Sean Bratches, EVP of Sales and Marketing was to leave the company by the end of the year. On Monday ESPN announced that another on Sean's team, David Preschlack, EVP of Affiliate Sales and Marketing, was also resigning.  Could this be fallout from the distribution contract issues between ESPN and Verizon?  The timing seems peculiar. And so one can only wonder what other shoe will drop.

Well, today, we have learned that Bill Simmons, long time veteran writer, will not see his contract renewed when it expires.  While certainly not connected to distribution issues, one can only start to wonder if ESPN is getting ready to clean house both on the distribution and content sides of the company. Should we start to see layoffs or resignations, it will be a more clearer indication that change and trouble is rising inside the sports company.

One thing is for sure, sports content has made sports networks like ESPN and others to charge the highest license fees of any of the basic networks.  Those costs can only be passed on for so long before distributors start to feel the effects of lost subscribers due to cord cutting.  Offering cheaper, more limited packages, that exclude sports content, is how Verizon FIOS is hoping to win back some of those cost conscious consumers.  How iron cloud the ESPN contracts are might be the issue that has resulted in the pending loss of two of their senior employees.