Doing The Bristol Stomp: ESPN Responds To Criticism For Multi-Platform Approach

This story was written by Staci D. Kramer.
I wrote some long stories for the Sports Business Journal but nothing comes close to John Ourand's magnum opus on ESPN (NYSE: DIS) in this week's issue. Ourand, who worked on the report for three months, takes a deep look at the sharp-as-a-pistol folks from Bristoland the way they are viewed by advertisers, media buyers, leagues, and competitors. (SBJ has provided a link that doesn't require a subscription.)

The story keys off a well-traveled PowerPoint presentation called "The Emperor's New Clothes: How ESPN's Multi-Platform Strategy Hasn't Improved Ratings" that claims moving to ESPN doesn't help sports raise ratings in comparison to broadcast nets and that its vaunted multi-platform strategy doesn't add much overall. Basically, as Ourand says, the idea is to bash everything about ESPN, which has been a lightning rod for criticism for much of its existence. Read the whole story for the complete picture and ESPN's point-by-point responses. Read for some of the multi-platform issues.

ESPN was multi-platform before most media companies started to use the word. That's both good and not-so-goodgood, because George Bodenheimer and company have built the concept into everything the company does; not-so-good because it can make too big a deal out of small things at times and because it can be difficult for advertisers to navigate.  As for measuring what multi-platform really means in terms of audience, it's almost impossible and it makes comparing performance of individual platforms risky. Bodenheimer: "People want to judge 'Monday Night Football' or a NASCAR race and judge it by what the rating was in a three-hour window, based on this technology Nielsen ratings that has been around for decades. Our business is so far beyond that." Efforts to find a measure with Nielsen Media aren't close to meaningful yet.

Ourand pulls out a good example of ESPN's reach:  According to internal data from the Jan. 7 Roger Clemens press conference internal data, 85 percent of the people who watched or listened were there via something branded ESPNlive on ESPNews (38.9 percent) and ESPN2 (36.9 percent) and on (16.1 percent) and ESPN Radio (10.7 percent) also logged significant hits. (No specifics on mobile ESPN WAP or MVP on Verizon.) John Skipper, EVP-Content: "We think of the audience as the total number of people who watch it. That's ultimately what we're in the game of doing."

By Staci D. Kramer