When ESPN turned out the lights on Grantland last fall, one of the big questions was how long it would be until FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s data journalism outfit, followed Grantland out the door. After all, the metrics-focused site was just as much of an odd fit within the sports media empire.
But, two years after its launch, FiveThirtyEight is growing both its traffic and headcount — and says that ESPN has every interest in keeping it around. Its editorial staff is now at 43, and it’s pushing out 10 stories a day, with plans to double that number this year.
Managing editor David Firestone pointed to FiveThirtyEight’s headcount, which increased by 17 people in the past year. Three of those additions were to the site’s video team, which is helping FiveThirtyEight with short-form clips, such as “The Dean Scream,” a 10-minute exploration of Howard Dean’s campaign-ending yawp in 2004.
On that front, FiveThirtyEight seems to realize it can’t live off politics coverage alone, especially after the presidential election. So in addition to politics and sports, it’s also applied its formula to cover The Oscars, Fandango’s Rotten Tomatoes deal and Harper Lee. It’s also building out its science and health coverage (it hired The New York Times Magazine science columnist Maggie Koerth-Baker this week). FiveThirtyEight even plans to venture into eSports coverage later this year.
The bigger nagging question, though, is how long ESPN’s support for FiveThirtyEight will last. While the company said that it was “totally committed” to FiveThirtyEight, ESPN itself is in a bit of a rough patch. In Disney’s last quarter, ESPN’s unit, which also includes the Disney Channels and ABC, posted a 5.6 percent decline in operating income, thanks to subscriber declines and higher programming costs. It’s going to be hard for ESPN to justify keeping something like FiveThirtyEight around if it’s not generating revenue.
“They have to support themselves, because ESPN is not going to he happy about losing money anywhere,” said Seth Alpert, managing director at advisory firm AdMedia Partners, adding that FiveThirtyEight already seems to be further along, monetization-wise, than Grantland was when ESPN pulled the plug.
“Grantland had some issues after [founder Bill] Simmons left. There was some tension there, but that’s not the situation here,” said Firestone, who said that the site has a “great” relationship with ESPN. “I know people looked at Grantland and said something similar would happen to us, but I don’t think there’s any sign of that. Everyone’s committed to this for the long haul.”
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Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Notre Dame AD: NBC Deal With Big Ten is “Perfect” For Irish
“But it’s also perfect for Notre Dame,” Swarbrick said.
While not official, there has been strong reporting that the Big Ten conference has decided which broadcast entities would be awarded media rights for their football and basketball games. One of those partners appears to be NBC who also has a partnership with Notre Dame thru 2025.
On Wedneday, Notre Dame’s Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick held a live chat for the school’s alumni association. On that chat, the subject of the recent Big Ten media rights deal came up. He praised Commissioner Kevin Warren and called the Big Ten’s strategy brilliant and added that it’s great for college football because it gives networks inventory and now an incentive to produce around it. He also said when the value of the deals was announced, it’d be “pretty amazing” for the conference.
He then discussed how it fit with Notre Dame’s outlook on television media rights.
“But it’s also perfect for Notre Dame,” Swarbrick said. “We need NBC to have more college football to more effectively promote our games and to talk about our games and to have NBC be seen in that light. So that was great for us that they got a big piece of this.”
Louis Riddick Signs Contract Extension With ESPN
He will be on the network’s Thursday night college football package.
Football analyst Louis Riddick has signed a new extension to continue his career with ESPN.
The network made the announcement on Wednesday when announcing their broadcast teams for the 2022 college football season. In that release, it was revealed that Riddick would be returning to the college football booth for the first time since 2019.
He will be on the network’s Thursday night college football package and be partnered with play-by-play commentator Matt Barrie and Harry Lyles Jr.
It was announced earlier this summer that Riddick would also be in the booth for ESPN’s preseason NFL action. He’ll also be in the booth for three weeks that ESPN has multiple games in that week.
Riddick’s first college football game assignment will be the Backyard Brawl game between West Virginia and Pittsburgh and the latter has already noted their excitement.
ESPN Adds Aaron Murray, Re-Signs Beth Mowins For College Football Coverage
Mowins provides play-by-play on college basketball and softball, and has been the Voice of the Women’s College World Series for more than two decades.
ESPN announced the hiring of Aaron Murray to its analyst roster.
Murray, a former quarterback at Georgia and most recently an analyst with CBS Sports Network, will call a handful of games on the SEC Network. He’ll also appear on some of the network’s studio programming.
ESPN also announced the re-signing of play-by-play commentator Beth Mowins to a multi-year deal. In addition to football, Mowins provides play-by-play on college basketball and softball, and has been the Voice of the Women’s College World Series for more than two decades.
ESPN announced the broadcast crews for its college football coverage as well.
|ABC Saturday Night Football||Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Holly Rowe|
|ESPN Saturday Night Primetime||Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Molly McGrath|
|ESPN and ABC Saturday||Joe Tessitore, Greg McElroy, Katie George|
|ESPN and ABC Saturday||Mark Jones, Robert Griffin III, Quint Kessenich|
|ESPN and ABC Saturday||Dave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek, Tom Luginbill|
|ESPN and ABC Saturday||Bob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky, Kris Budden|
|ESPN and ABC Saturday||Dave Flemming, Rod Gilmore, Tiffany Blackmon|
|ESPN and ESPN2 Saturday||Anish Shroff, Brock Osweiler, Taylor McGregor|
|ESPN and ESPN2 Saturday||Beth Mowins, Kirk Morrison, Stormy Buonantony|
|ESPN Thursday||Matt Barrie, Louis Riddick, Harry Lyles Jr.|
|ESPN and ESPN2 Friday||Roy Philpott, Andre Ware, Paul Carcaterra|
|ESPN and ESPN2 Saturday||Brian Custer, Dustin Fox, Lauren Sisler|
|SEC Saturday Night||Tom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic|
|ACC Network Primetime||Dave O’Brien, Tim Hasselbeck, Kelsey Riggs|
|SEC Network||Dave Neal, Deuce McAllister, Andraya Carter|
|SEC Network||Taylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Alyssa Lang|
|ACC Network||Wes Durham, Roddy Jones, Taylor Davis|
|ACC Network||Chris Cotter, Mark Herzlich, Lericia Harris|
|ESPN2 and ESPNU Saturday||Clay Matvick, Rocky Boiman, Dawn Davenport|
|ESPN2 and ESPNU Saturday||Kevin Brown, Hutson Mason|
|ESPN2 and ESPNU Saturday||John Schriffen, Rene Ingoglia|
|ESPN2 and ESPNU Saturday||Drew Carter, TBD|
|ESPN2 and ESPNU Saturday||Connor Onion, Craig Haubert|
|Longhorn Network||Lowell Galindo, Sam Acho, Alex Chappell|
|ESPNU Thursday – HBCU||Tiffany Greene, Jay Walker|
|ESPN Radio||Marc Kestecher, Kelly Stouffer, Ian FitzsimmonsMike Couzens, Max Starks|