From Tom Jones | Poynter <[email protected]>
Subject Breaking down the Disney/ESPN-Spectrum dispute
Date September 5, 2023 11:30 AM
  Links have been removed from this email. Learn more in the FAQ.
  Links have been removed from this email. Learn more in the FAQ.
15 million Spectrum customers haven’t been able to watch ESPN — or Disney, FX and others — since Thursday night. Email not displaying correctly?
View it in your browser ([link removed]) .
[link removed]
[link removed]


** Breaking down the Disney/ESPN-Spectrum dispute
(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Last Thursday night, just as the college football weekend was about to kick off with a tasty little showdown between Utah and Florida, ESPN went blank on Spectrum — the cable TV service of Charter Communications. ESPN2’s coverage of the U.S. Open also went dark on Spectrum.

Sports fans went berserk. And the timing, in particular, seemed purposefully vengeful.

ESPN is owned by Disney and there is a carriage dispute between Disney and Charter. In other words, Disney and Charter can’t agree on how much money Charter should pay Disney to have access to its stations, which not only include the ESPN family, but the various Disney channels, FX and, theoretically, ABC. When the sides couldn’t agree, Disney pulled its programming.

Of course, each side is blaming the other, and there is plenty of blame to go around. But as writer Will Leitch tweeted ([link removed]) , “No better representation of what it feels like to be a sports fan right now than the fact that I pay ESPN *and* Charter an absurd amount of money specifically to watch sports, but because they can't agree how much of my money they should give to EACH OTHER, I can't watch sports.”

That’s right. In the end, it’s sports fans who are suffering.

Disputes between cable/satellite providers and TV networks are not uncommon. But it is rare that it gets to a point where programming is pulled from the air. When it is, the blackout doesn’t usually last long. But as of late Monday night, about 15 million customers of Spectrum, the country’s second-largest cable company, remained without ESPN’s stations. That meant a long holiday weekend of college football and U.S. Open coverage was lost. Viewers also will be without popular shows such as “SportsCenter,” “First Take” and “Pardon the Interruption.” And this weekend, it gets really serious when the NFL — and ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” — gets underway.

Now it’s a game of chicken.

Spectrum is taking the risk that customers won’t get so fed up that they will join what has been a rising trend in recent years of canceled cable subscribers.

Meanwhile, ESPN is a company in flux. With so much cord-cutting in recent years, ESPN’s reach into homes has dropped significantly. A decade ago, ESPN was in about 100 million homes. That number now is in the 75 million range. And dropping.

ESPN continues to pay exorbitant prices to sports leagues to carry games, while at the same time, having significant layoffs in the past year.

The big question is what Disney is ultimately going to do with ESPN. A leading theory is that someday, ESPN will be a direct-to-consumer product, just like, say, Netflix. But that is a complicated model involving various sports leagues and, while it might be ESPN’s dream scenario, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.

In the meantime, ESPN is taking the bigger PR hit in this dispute with Charter. And if folks canceling their cable is bad for Charter, it’s ultimately bad for ESPN, too.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio wrote ([link removed]) , “Eventually, a deal will be done. Someone will blink. Both sides will give a little. A solution will be found. Along the way, the consumers will lose; Charter and Disney are equally responsible for that. Despite any efforts by ESPN to paint Charter as the villain, the better message would be for ESPN to apologize for the failure of its corporate overlord to work in a mature and productive way with Charter to keep the ESPN channels available to Spectrum customers, to ask Charter to apologize as well, and to commit to getting the situation resolved before (‘Monday Night Football’).”

[link removed]

** Reach the right audience with Poynter.

Connect your message to thousands of media professionals and people who value good journalism by advertising on or in Poynter’s suite of newsletters, including The Poynter Report with Tom Jones.

Find out more or place a request here ([link removed]) .

** Who’s making the big bucks at The New York Times?

Last week, in his highly read column, longtime popular and respected NFL writer Peter King had an item ([link removed]) about NFL reporter Dianna Russini leaving ESPN for The Athletic.

It was a curious move for Russini to leave ESPN for The New York Times-owned Athletic, and even Russini admitted so to King, telling him, “I did walk away. It wasn’t a situation where ESPN didn’t want me. I love ESPN. They’ve given me so much opportunity and the people I’ve worked with were incredible. It was a really difficult decision for me, for my family. But it really came down to recognizing at ESPN I wasn’t going to change roles. There was no elevation there for me based on my conversations with the company. They did not have a vision outside of what I currently do. The Athletic, through conversations I had with all the people in charge, just has an endless amount of roles and ideas for me. They want information. They want a storyteller. They want someone with personality. Once I realized they were pretty much handing me over a blank sheet of paper that basically just said go be who you want to be, I realized that this could change my life. The Athletic showed that they value me more
than ESPN, for sure.”

Even though she is at The Athletic, Russini tells King she has retained her TV rights, meaning she could, in theory, work as, say, a sideline reporter for a network that carries the NFL.

King also threw this out there: “(Russini) immediately becomes one of the highest-paid writers in the history of the august New York Times company.” King added, “This move doesn’t make traditional journalism sense. To think Dianna Russini will almost certainly make more money than Maggie Haberman or David Brooks — Times legends — and, crazily, might earn more than them combined, is a sign of the strange sports journalism times we live in. Stars who cover the NFL make crazy salaries compared to the money people make covering news that truly matters.”

For starters, as The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis noted on his “Press Box” podcast ([link removed]) , it’s not uncommon for a sportswriter to be the highest-paid writer/reporter at a news outlet. During the 1980s, 1990s and even well into the 2000s (and maybe even now), sports columnists have often been the highest-paid writers even though they don’t, according to King, “cover news that truly matters.” (What they do, by the way, is draw more readers to a publication than the other writers, but I write that as a former sports columnist.)

And King acknowledges that going after Russini could draw attention to The Athletic. He wrote, “The Athletic hired Russini to be different, to be a subscription magnet, to tell good stories, to be a difference-maker on the NFL beat, and to break some stories. … The Athletic wants to be profitable soon, and the way to try to do that is to take chances. This is a chance. Russini’s rep at ESPN was as a football firebrand and good beat reporter with a growing list of sources. Tireless, tough, lover of the game. Her new employer needs American sports fans to buy Russini, and her traits.”

Russini said in an interview with CBS Sports Radio’s “The DA Show” that she was surprised by King’s angle about her salary. And, she cast doubt on King’s assertion that she would make more money than other Times reporters, saying, “I can tell you, the first thing my husband said after he read that was, ‘Did you not share something with me? Are you getting paid a lot more than you were told?’”

I don’t know what Haberman makes. Or Brooks. Or what Russini is now making, but if I had to guess, I think King is probably right.

In the end, King’s item is an intriguing one and a curious peek into what The Athletic (and The New York Times) is thinking.

** Remembering Jimmy Buffett
Jimmy Buffett, shown here in May 2022. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

Singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, who captured the beach bum and island-in-the-sun lifestyle that connected strongly with his rabid fanbase, died over the weekend. He was 76. His website now reports ([link removed]) the cause of death was a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer known as Merkel cell carcinoma.

Here are a few of the best and most interesting remembrances of Buffett:
* The Washington Post’s Amy Argetsinger and Hank Stuever with “In Jimmy Buffett’s look and lifestyle, the rise of the casual male.” ([link removed])
* Here is contributor Bill Flanagan and his piece ([link removed]) for “CBS Sunday Morning.”
* For The New York Times, chief pop music critic Jon Pareles with “Jimmy Buffett Was More Than Beaches and Booze.” ([link removed])
* The Ringer’s Rob Harvilla with “Jimmy Buffett Found Paradise on Earth.” ([link removed])

** Media tidbits
* The New Yorker’s Clare Malone writes about Mark Thompson being named the head of CNN in “CNN’s New White Knight.” ([link removed])
* Semafor’s Max Tani with “Jay Penske’s Hollywood Media Empire faces a moment of truth.” ([link removed])
* The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin with “What responsible media coverage in the Trump era would look like.” ([link removed])

** Hot type
* Los Angeles Times columnist Erika D. Smith with “The ‘fuss’ over Burning Man proves we care about the wrong people stuck in the mud.” ([link removed])
* For The New Yorker, Joe Garcia with “Listening to Taylor Swift in Prison.” ([link removed])
* Wonderful photos in this piece from The Washington Post: “A capital summer. A visual journal of the region’s people and places.” ([link removed])

** More resources for journalists
* Bring Poynter to Your Newsroom, Classroom or Workplace ([link removed]) .
* Poynter will honor Anderson Cooper at the Bowtie Ball ([link removed]) in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 18. Learn how to get first dibs on tickets ([link removed]) during a donor pre-sale event Sept. 5-10.
* Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Media ([link removed]) (Mar., May & Sept. 2024) — Apply by Sept. 8, 2023 ([link removed]) .
* Power of Diverse Voices: Writing Workshop for Journalists of Color ([link removed]) (Nov. 15-18) (Seminar) — Apply by Sept. 15 ([link removed]) .

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at [email protected] (mailto:[email protected]) .
[link removed]
I want more analysis of the news media to help me understand my world. ([link removed])
GIVE NOW ([link removed])

ADVERTISE ([link removed]) // DONATE ([link removed]) // LEARN ([link removed]) // JOBS ([link removed])
Did someone forward you this email? Sign up here. ([link removed])
[link removed] [link removed] [link removed] [link removed] mailto:[email protected]?subject=Feedback%20for%20Poynter
[link removed]
[link removed]
[link removed]
[link removed]
[link removed]
© All rights reserved Poynter Institute 2023
801 Third Street South, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
If you don't want to receive email updates from Poynter, we understand.
You can change your subscription preferences ([link removed]) or unsubscribe from all Poynter emails ([link removed]) .
Screenshot of the email generated on import

Message Analysis