The Rockefellers of Sports Media: ESPN’s Global Dominance

By Derek Stiles

Sports Editor


As I became more intrigued by sports journalism and how it was covered I began looking for stories outside those produced by ESPN. Not to say I still don’t go to ESPN’s website for the most recent news and scores, but I wanted to read something different, something with more precision, something that didn’t look at a game from an aerial view, but from a microscopic one. ESPN didn’t provide this, as simple game summaries and mainstream news about LeBron James and Alex Rodriguez’s use of steroids weren’t enough for me. I finally found it one day when I discovered Grantland.

Grantland is, in simple terms, a professionally written blog all about sports and entertainment. Nowhere else would you find a Super Bowl summary titled, “Retro Running Diary: The Sports Guy Revisits Super Bowl XLIX,” where Bill Simmons gave his inner thoughts play-by-play while describing what a historic game it was.

I thought, “No way could ESPN ever provide such unique coverage on sports when it only entertains to the mainstream interests.” How wrong could I ever be? Venturing to the bottom of the page I would read right next to the copyright information, “2015 ESPN Internet Ventures.” It was impossible that such distinctive sports coverage was owned by ESPN, just like every other sports news outlet.

My discovery led me to delve deeper into ESPN’s monopoly over sports media nationwide. What I found was that ESPN not only dominated the headlines nationally, but globally as well.

“Men have named us their favorite channel for 14 straight years,” Artie Bulgrin, ESPN’s director of research, said. “Other networks need to create hits. We don’t. We are a destination network, not a network with destination programming. People tune in to ESPN without even knowing what’s on.”

ESPN is the John D. Rockefeller of today’s sports industry, simply buying out everything in their sight and leaving nothing but other programs’ dismal ratings in their path. “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” has purchased the rights to “Monday Night Football” ($15.2 billion), Major League Baseball ($5.6 billion), and a 12-year deal to broadcast the newly created college football system ($7.3 billion.)

No matter where you look, ESPN has a grip over what sports are appearing where. Just ask college football networking.

What comes with spending over $10 billion in the past five years on college football broadcasting is the power to arrange games, set schedules, and pick-and-choose what universities, players, and coaches get national exposure.

Fox Sports has directed competition towards ESPN, otherwise known as the Fox Sports 1 Network, a 24-hour sports news channel. It will directly rival ESPN’s almighty SportsCenter at 11 p.m. every night. Other networks like NBC and CBS have attacked ESPN by picking off lead anchors (Jim Rome and Doug Gottlieb.)

However, as New York Times writer Richard Sandomir puts it, “To protect its empire, ESPN stays on offense.” Bill Simmon’s (employee of ESPN) creation of Grantland was just the start. ESPN would later buyout FiveThirtyEight, a website that revolves around poll-based research in politics, sports, and economics. As ESPN’s power sifts into other spectrums outside of sports, who knows how big of an empire they can build. Ironically, I can hear SportsCenter as I finish writing this piece.

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