ESPN has a well-documented history of biased coverage, most notably on their signature show SportsCenter. In 2012 thus far, ESPN’s bias has seemingly reared its ugly head more often than ever before. The topic was discussed extensively in the sports business class that I took over spring term at Drexel with NBC Universal/Comcast Sports Group Senior Vice President of Sports Content, Mike Sheehey. Whenever the topic of bias was brought up, Mr. Sheehey constantly harped on the “BooYah’s” and the “Back Back Back’s”. Personally, I believe ESPN’s bias runs much deeper than that.
|We will get to you on Monday in Dollars & Sense, Mr. Berman.|
I don’t want to get into nostalgia and dashed future expectations, but as an avid (maybe fanatic) sports fan I have literally watched this ESPN bias unfold before my eyes. Growing up, I was that kid who would wake up and immediately watch SportsCenter. I would watch rerun after rerun if I had the time. The highlights and surface analysis never got old to me. Maybe I was simply young and naïve.
ESPN has changed since the good ole days of the 90s (yes 90s kids, I know you’re all with me on that one). As I’ve gotten older and (hopefully) gotten wiser, I have begun to notice what ESPN truly is. SportsCenter isn’t about sports highlights and it sure as hell isn’t about sports news. SportsCenter epitomizes the entire ESPN business, a business that's out there solely to service their partners.
The proof is in the numbers. I want to thank Deadspin for doing the leg work here in their BristolMetrics section. Let's crunch the numbers from last week.
Understandably, the NBA received the most coverage out of any league. However, is over 100 minutes more coverage than the next closest league really justifiable? Major League Baseball is in full swing of their season, yet the NBA deserves 100 more minutes (NBA - 178.75 minutes vs. MLB – 75.5 minutes). I don’t see that as being impartial. The bias runs deeper more when you check out the most covered teams by sport. The Miami Heat got 143.25 minutes of coverage. A whopping 132.75 minutes more than the next closest team, which not surprisingly was the New York Yankees.
|Winning a championship is great, but does it warrant that much coverage.|
ESPN’s bias is even more relevant when looking at the breakdown by player. Six of the top fifteen players based on mentions were Miami Heat players. Four more were Oklahoma City Thunder players, making ten of the top fifteen players mentioned coming from the NBA. To make matters worse, LeBron James was mentioned 280 times in one week. The next closest you ask? Kevin Durant… with 113 mentions. ESPN lovin’ LeBron James much?
It is one thing if ESPN simply loves the NBA more than every other league. However, the reason is that they are solely out to protect their television interests. Take a look at the week of June 8 to June14. Both the NBA Finals were occurring and the NHL Stanley Cup Finals were wrapping up. This is the perfect comparison because both leagues were in their championship finals and the NBA has a television deal with ESPN while the NHL does not. Let’s rattle off the numbers. Time by league: NBA – 190.5 minutes vs. NHL – 31 minutes. Most covered teams by sport: Miami Heat (again) – 144 minutes vs. Los Angeles Kings – 29 minutes. Top fifteen most mentioned athletes: NBA - 10 out of 15 vs. NHL – 1 out of 15. Even if ESPN is biased, the numbers ain’t.
The scary part about all of the clear numbers to support ESPN’s bias is their coverage (in this case lack thereof) of the Jerry Sandusky trial. I don’t need to remind you of gory details and the magnitude of the case. It does seem like ESPN needed to be reminded. From June 8 to June 14, ESPN covered the
Sandusky trial (the first week of the trial), for an unsatisfactory 45 seconds. Yes, I am aware that I have typed seconds
instead of minutes. The NBA got 254
times more coverage on SportsCenter
than the biggest tragedy to rock the sports world possibly ever.
|Biggest tragedy possibly in the history of sports, goes relatively uncovered by the Worldwide Leader.|
Still believe that ESPN is a company of integrity? Check this one out. Last week, from June 15 to June 21 (the day before the
verdict was reached), the Sandusky
trial was covered for 1 minute. In comparison, the Roger Clemens trial
received 6 minutes of coverage. I know, I’ll give you a minute to let that
all sink in… If you’ve been catching what I’ve been throwing throughout, then I
think it goes without saying that ESPN has a television deal with the Big 10
conference. Oh yea, and
is one of the marquee teams in the conference.
As for Clemens, I think it is safe to assume that he has been irrelevant
long enough for his trial not to impact ESPN’s television deal with MLB. Penn State
Maybe I’m stuck in a childlike state of innocence that still believes the world is pure and good. Maybe I’m some jaded sports fanatic that wants to bring back the good times. Regardless of what I may be, you can’t argue with the numbers. SportsCenter should be for sports highlights and sports news, not servicing the suits.
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