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LIVE From Santa Monica, The American Apocalypse

“Caught in the crossfire of civil unrest, Jay Mariotti wonders if a tortured and anguished America can recover from the convergence of police brutality, a devastating pandemic and rampant unemployment.”

Jay Mariotti

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This is my turf, the beach community of Santa Monica, where I moved to worship the sun and escape the crime and deep freeze of Chicago. And I’ve just watched paradise degenerate into Hell On Earth, CA, 90409. We are almost 2,000 miles from Minneapolis, but looking around, the world feels as bleak as it did when a racist cop pressed his knee for more than eight minutes against the neck of George Floyd, killing him.

Over there on Ocean Avenue, where I drive my bike most days, a row of police officers is firing hard rubber bullets and smoke bombs into a sea of protesters ignoring a curfew. Across the street, where I swam for years at a resort pool, a fire extinguisher is thrown from an apartment building, among many projectiles — rocks, glass, golf balls, M-80 firecrackers — hurled at police. And Chez Jay, the dive bar by the famed pier where Ben Affleck and Matt Damon wrote “Good Will Hunting’’ and John F. Kennedy rendezvoused with Marilyn Monroe … rat-a-tat-tat, there goes a round of pepper spray balls.

“STOP KILLING BLACK PEOPLE,’’ reads a sign.

“END THE HATE,’’ reads another.

Lawlessness is one-upping sunshine as the prevailing mood. Protesters throw bottles, telling the cops to “(bleep) yourselves,’’ but the police don’t make mass arrests until later in the night. Looters are everywhere — busting windows, storming into stores and pharmacies and stealing merchandise from establishments that have been shuttered for months by the pandemic. Helicopters are hovering, innocent people are running for shelter. If anyone is wearing a mask, it’s a rarity. A grocery store where I’ve shopped is surrounded by a SWAT team, snuffing out the food looters. Blocks away, a police car is on fire beside Civic Auditorium, where they handed out Oscars in the ‘60s and once hosted Pink Floyd, Queen, Bowie, Springsteen and the Eagles.

Welcome to the Hotel California. Such a lovely place …

Peaceful protests, looting, arrests grow across Southern ...

Fortunately, I don’t live in the thick of the skirmish lines. But this is the area, on the westside of Los Angeles, where I walk, eat, drink, socialize, shop, write, exercise, sip espresso and visit the doctor and dentist. What started as a downtown L.A. curfew extended to two nights of stay-home orders in response to mass rioting and looting throughout a sprawling metropolis, returning us to isolation just as COVID-19 lockdowns were easing, businesses were opening and you actually could sit down at a restaurant or get a haircut. Forget about that cheeseburger, beer and sideburns cleanup when the governor deploys the National Guard, last summoned to the L.A. streets in 1992, when the cops who beat Rodney King were freed by a not-guilty verdict.

Were the military Humvees, carrying Guardsmen with M-4 rifles, hauling ass down the 10 freeway? Why, yes, they were, settling after dark in locations throughout town, including the courthouse where O.J. Simpson lost the civil suit. And that crackling. Was that a round of fireworks or gunfire? Why was I hearing Rage Against The Machine in my head? There always will be blue skies and oblivious surfers in these parts, but anarchy is the new SoCal vibe. Yes, that was sports troublemaker JR Smith in a TMZ video, kicking the hell out of a white man who allegedly smashed his car window in a residential neighborhood somewhere in the L.A. fray. “I chased him down and whipped his ass,’’ Smith said in a video. “This ain’t no hate crime. I ain’t got no problem with nobody who ain’t got no problem with me. It’s a problem with the mother(bleeping) system. That’s it. … One of these mother(bleeping) white boys didn’t know where he was going and broke my (bleeping) window in my truck.”

A more measured social observer, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, captured the biggest picture with appropriate dignity. “Those people out there are demonstrating for something that is very valid,” he told KTLA. “The idea that all men are created equal is not really applied to our justice system.’’

He’s right. Why would an evil cop let a little old pandemic stop him when there’s hatred to vent, a neck to suffocate and an unarmed black man to murder? Why let the most catastrophic health crisis of our time interfere with an enemy no vaccine ever will cure? We could push a reset button on life as we’ve known it, which sounds like a fine idea right now, and there still would be a white police officer brutalizing a fellow human being for no other reason than the malignant growth of racism.

If this isn’t the 21st-century apocalypse, what is? One hundred million Americans have been killed by the coronavirus, 40 million are jobless, at least 1.5 million are homeless, scads of COVID-iots won’t wear masks to safeguard themselves and others from infection — and now, as if on cue from the usual demons heckling in the balcony box, our red, white and blue canvas is covered by mayhem, flames, sirens and mass destruction that might only be getting started. Of course, police brutality, civil unrest and the resulting violence would rear their wicked fangs with the worst timing imaginable, further battering a nation crippled by a pandemic that has conflated hellishly into political, economic and wellness divides.

Los Angeles mayor requires face coverings when entering businesses ...

Pleaded Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, who extended the overnight curfew to 5:30 a.m. Monday: “With liberty comes the responsibility to be able to peacefully protest. We cannot, though, protect our ability to protect life when we see people are looting. We cannot protect our ability to protect life when we see fires set in dense urban areas that not only endanger firefighters, but could put buildings or residents up in flames. We’ve seen this before in Los Angeles. When the violence escalates, no one wins.”

As for President Trump, is he still threatening White House protesters with “vicious dogs’’ and “ominous weapons?’’ Or do more infantile tweets await from the man who created much of the madness?

It’s difficult to think about much else when the country is a war zone. Needless to say, sports is only on the minds of degenerate gamblers and, I suppose, the leagues and broadcast networks desperate to recoup lost fortunes.  This is no time to insult an American intellect that is pummeled and exhausted yet still armed with perspective. Don’t say the fires that burned in Minnesota, the demonstrations demanding justice for another victim who couldn’t breathe, ever could be soothed by — mute the ESPN theme music — the return of live games. Don’t suggest we can escape an inane presidency of Twitter bombs, currently flagged by a yogi tech titan who fasts on weekends and meditates in Myanmar, by simply sitting back and watching round balls dribbled and batted in quiet buildings.

But soon enough, after a respectful pause, we’ll again read the leaked stories that continue to incrementally push a $200-billion industry toward a resumption of games. If the summer continues to be intense — and why wouldn’t it? — does it make even less sense than before to carry on with basketball and baseball and, at some point, pro and college football? The sports-obsessed Spike Lee, when asked when Hollywood film production might resume, said this to Vanity Fair BEFORE Floyd’s death: “They ain’t doing a thing until the vaccine. I know I’m not going to a movie theater. I know I’m not going to a Broadway show. I know I’m not going to Yankee Stadium. Corona is a bitch. Corona is not playing. You (bleep) around, you’re going to get killed, you’re going to die. I’m not ready to go.” Are similarly smart people really going to watch a ballgame when, in addition to the lurking virus, your city is burning on 15 other TV channels? Will athletes and their families be able to focus on games amid the unrest when, as it is, they are imperiled by virus outbreaks no matter how many tests are readily available?

Logic makes a strong argument for American sports to shut down until 2021. Why not monitor the national condition, as well as the re-openings of European soccer leagues to see if the pandemic strikes back in those countries? Oh, I forgot. Billions of dollars are at stake, with team owners and network executives aghast at the thought of dented empires, while some players are convinced they’re invincible and bigger than any silly virus. Until we hear otherwise, assume the NBA is returning in late July and that Major League Baseball will continue to wage its internal labor battles — so inappropriate, so dumb — before deciding whether to play an abbreviated season or fade into much-deserved oblivion.

Derek Chauvin Reportedly Receiving Checks Similar To Suicide Watch ...

I must say, even when idle, sports has managed to hammer home its considerable influence in the hours after Floyd’s death. The immediate outcry might be recalled as more important than any games scratched out in the fraught months ahead. Who needs LeBron James trying to win a playoff series in an Orlando quarantine bubble when he’s posting a photo of Derek Chauvin’s knee juxtaposed beside a photo of Colin Kaepernick kneeling on a sideline? There is a time and place for social activism in sports. This is the time and place, after the murders of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Michael Jordan, formerly activism-phobic, answered criticism from “The Last Dance’’ docu-series by condemning police brutality, writing in a statement, “I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry. I see and feel everyone’s pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough.”

We have yet to hear from current sports G.O.A.T. Tom Brady, who has been disproportionately visible during the pandemic — cussing up a storm with Howard Stern, telling golf razzer Charles Barkley to “take a suck of that’’ after a miracle birdie, irresponsibly hawking coronavirus-aimed supplements — but somehow can’t lash out against racism even when challenged by a HOCKEY star, Evander Kane.

Still, sports spoke, with backlash from an unexpected source, North Carolina Central basketball coach LeVelle Moton, who told ESPN Radio that he’s alarmed by the silence of Power Five basketball and football coaches — you know, the legends — in the wake of Floyd’s death. I agree. The quiet is deafening, as LeBron would agree.

“Do you understand NOW?’’ asked James, reminding the world why Kaepernick protested against police violence.

Then there was Jaylen Brown, the young Celtics star, driving 15 hours from Boston to lead a peaceful protest in Atlanta, near his hometown of Marietta, Ga. “Being a celebrity, being an NBA player, don’t exclude me from no conversations at all. First and foremost, I’m a black man and I’m a member of this community,’’ said Brown, a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association. “We’re raising awareness for some of the injustices that we’ve been seeing. It’s not OK. As a young person, you’ve got to listen to our perspective. Our voices need to be heard. I’m 23 years old. I don’t know all of the answers. But I feel how everybody else is feeling, for sure. No question.”

Jaylen Brown drives 15 hours to lead Floyd protests in Atlanta

If and when the games resume, they will distract us for a nanosecond — maybe — from the turbulent scenes nationwide. But sports can’t delete the sick images of a creep as distinct and despicable as Chauvin, as we enter a fourth month (or is it the sixth or 10th?) of battling a devil ghost that has drained a country’s spirit and bank accounts. There can be no diversion. We’re too far gone.

Basically, the tinderbox that is America needs something, anything, that will function through the chaos and not break down in crisis. This is how sports can re-enter the murk if it so audaciously insists — and how a progressive league such as the NBA is positioned to at least get up and running while a graying, labor-torn, out-of-touch fossil such as MLB is ill-equipped to lead in tumultuous times. And I say that knowing the Players Association submitted a proposal to play a 114-game season — a marked increase from the previous 82 — that allows all players to opt out of the 2020 season over coronavirus concerns. The owners will reject it, and then what?

If sports must return, it might as well launch with its best shot to succeed. That would be the NBA, led by a woke commissioner presiding over a predominantly African-American league. Whether it was James’ tweet … or Brown’s march … or Stephen Jackson speaking out about his friendship with Floyd … or Steve Kerr trashing Vice President Mike Pence for a White House tweet that denounced the mass protests … or teams releasing statements condemning racism and violence against the black community … let’s just say the response was exactly what we’ve come to expect from Adam Silver’s league. “This is murder. Disgusting,’’ Kerr tweeted. “Seriously, what the hell is wrong with the U.S.????’’

A ballgame never has seemed more frivolous and inconsequential. But here is one reason America still can bond with sports: The NBA gets it. And it will remind us, even inside a Disney World bubble fraught with peril, that pro basketball maintains a social conscience that baseball woefully lacks. For several days, I’ve also seen sports people beyond the NBA, athletes and coaches and executives, rail against the relentless scourge of racism. Even Joe Burrow, himself only 23, was savvy enough to wax responsibly as an NFL rookie: “The black community needs our help. They have been unheard for far too long. Open your ears, listen and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.’’ But, disturbingly, I had to search hard to find related baseball tweets before seeing this from the thoughtful Sean Doolittle, who wrote, “Racism is America’s Original Sin. It was here before we even forged a nation and has been passed down from generation to generation. And we still struggle to acknowledge that it even exists, much less atone for it.’’

NFL: Roger Goodell issues statement after George Floyd's death ...

Why not more MLB-based reaction? Maybe because only 68 of the 882 major-leaguers on Opening Day rosters last season — 7.7 percent — were African American. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who showcase a statue of racial groundbreaker Jackie Robinson outside a stadium near the rioting, didn’t have one black player … and 11 teams had no more than one. The sport that once heralded Henry Aaron and Willie Mays as its greatest stars has lost a generation of talented athletes to basketball and football, with African Americans comprising 75 percent of NBA rosters and 70 percent of NFL rosters. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was quick to issue a statement: “As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league. These tragedies inform the NFL’s commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action. We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.” To which veteran receiver Kenny Stills, speaking for many players, replied, “Save the bull(bleep).’’

We’re still waiting for a statement from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who does not get it and never will.

Not to generalize, because the likes of Doolittle, Marcus Stroman and Paul DeJong are as enlightened as any modern athlete. But baseball isn’t exactly brimming with social awareness. Can you believe some players have said they won’t obey COVID-19 protocol rules that ban sunflower seeds, chewing tobacco and the spitting necessary for both functions?

“Wait, what? I’m 100 percent gonna spit,’’ Colorado outfielder Charlie Blackmon, the four-time All-Star, told Sports Illustrated. “That’s ingrained in my playing the game. Whether or not I’m dipping or chewing gum, I’m still gonna spit. I have to occupy my mind. It’s like putting things on autopilot. I don’t have this idle time where my consciousness wanders. I fill my time with thought processes that are like a cruise control.”

There’s woke. And there’s wack.

MLB Welcome To Australia Press Conference

When I see the brainpower and energy invested in the rush to resume sports — the race to be the first major league back in business on U.S. soil — I wonder why such efforts and dynamism aren’t redirected to where they’re truly needed: medical science, race relations, leadership. In the case of baseball, such missions are laughable. MLB has tried to advance its role as a comforting, restorative balm, which is especially hokey with the league in its usual self-destructive labor mode. Once again, owners  would rather portray players as greedy, pandemic-deaf ingrates than embrace a gift of the calendar: a July 4 holiday, in the heat of a volatile summer, that could present the sport in a rare positive light. Imagine a temporary truce, a mutual willingness to table their money differences and give the country a patriotic mental-health option.

Silly me. Meet the new commissioner, same as the old commissioner, representing the same ownership mindset that almost killed baseball in the mid-‘90s … and might bury the sport forever if the season is canceled because of financial contretemps that never have been more galling than amid a national crisis.

All of which leaves the NBA poised to lead at some point, near or far, as MLB crashes. Not that a cumulative wokeness can stop a virus outbreak, of course, one that could end a season as abruptly as it stopped on Rudy Gobert Night. As an indoor endeavor played by men in shorts who sweat and spray saliva on every possession, basketball is the one sport in which positive tests are inevitable. Which could lead to disarray, in particular if athletes and family members foolishly slip away from the “campus’’ and venture into Orlando, then spread whatever they might catch throughout this so-called Magic Kingdom of roundball. Remember: America may be over the pandemic, but the pandemic is not over.

At least the coronavirus has a puncher’s chance for an eventual cure. Racism is untreatable, terminal, beyond hope. My suggestion, for a pure sports fix, would be to find a happy place where children are enjoying a game for the fun of it.

Wait. The park where I watched fathers toss balls to their kids? You may have seen it in the news footage, caught in hatred’s crossfire.

BSM Writers

The Future Is Now, Embrace Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible.

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This week has been a reckoning for sports and its streaming future on Amazon Prime Video, AppleTV+, ESPN+, and more.

Amazon announced that Thursday Night Football, which averaged 13 million viewers, generated the highest number of U.S. sign ups over a three hour period in the app’s history. More people in the United States subscribed to Prime during the September 15th broadcast than they did during Black Friday, Prime Day, and Cyber Monday. It was also “the most watched night of primetime in Prime Video’s history,” according to Amazon executive Jay Marine. The NFL and sports in general have the power to move mountains even for some of the nation’s biggest and most successful brands.

This leads us to the conversation happening surrounding Aaron Judge’s chase for history. Judge has been in pursuit of former major leaguer Roger Maris’ record for the most home runs hit during one season in American League history.

The sports world has turned its attention to the Yankees causing national rights holders such as ESPN, Fox, and TBS to pick up extra games in hopes that they capture the moment history is made. Apple TV+ also happened to have a Yankees game scheduled for Friday night against the Red Sox right in the middle of this chase for glory.

Baseball fans have been wildin’ out at the prospects of missing the grand moment when Judge passes Maris or even the moments afterwards as Judge chases home run number 70 and tries to truly create monumental history of his own. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand has even reported there were talks between YES, MLB, and Apple to bring Michael Kay into Apple’s broadcast to call the game, allow YES Network to air its own production of the game, or allow YES Network to simulcast Apple TV+’s broadcast. In my opinion, all of this hysteria is extremely bogus.

As annoying as streaming sports is and as much as I haven’t fully adapted to the habit yet, Amazon and Apple have done a magnificent job of trying to make the process as easy and simplified as possible. Amazon brought in NBC to help with production of TNF and if you watch the flow of the broadcast, the graphics of the broadcast, NBC personalities like Michael Smith, Al Michaels, and Terry McAuliffe make appearances on the telecast – it is very clear that the network’s imprint is all over the show.

NBC’s experience in conducting the broadcast has made the viewing experience much more seamless. Apple has also used MLB Network and its personalities for assistance in ensuring there’s no major difference between what you see on air vs. what you’re streaming.

Amazon and Apple have also decided to not hide their games behind a paywall. Since the beginning of the season, all of Apple’s games have been available free of charge. No subscription has ever been required. As long as you have an Apple device and can download Apple TV+, you can watch their MLB package this season.

Guess what? Friday’s game against the Red Sox is also available for free on your iPhone, your laptop, or your TV simply by downloading the AppleTV app. Amazon will also simulcast all Thursday Night Football games on Twitch for free. It may be a little harder or confusing to find the free options, but they are out there and they are legal and, once again, they are free.

Apple has invested $85 million into baseball, money that will go towards your team becoming better hypothetically. They’ve invested money towards creating a new kind of streaming experience. Why in the hell would they offer YES Network this game for free? There’s no better way for them to drive subscriptions to their product than by offering fans a chance at watching history on their platform.

A moment like this are the main reason Apple paid for rights in the first place. When Apple sees what the NFL has done for Amazon in just one week and coincidentally has the ability to broadcast one of the biggest moments in baseball history – it would be a terrible business decision to let viewers watch it outside of the Apple ecosystem and lose the ability to gain new fans.

It’s time for sports fans to grow up and face reality. Streaming is here to stay. 

MLB Network is another option

If you don’t feel like going through the hassle of watching the Yankees take on the Red Sox for free on Apple TV+, MLB Network will also air all of Judge’s at bats live as they are happening. In case the moment doesn’t happen on Apple TV+ on Friday night, Judge’s next games will air in full on MLB Network (Saturday), ESPN (Sunday), MLB Network again (Monday), TBS (Tuesday) and MLB Network for a third time on Wednesday. All of MLB Network’s games will be simulcast of YES Network’s local New York broadcast. It wouldn’t shock me to see Fox pick up another game next Thursday if the pursuit still maintains national interest.

Quick bites

  • One of the weirdest things about the experience of streaming sports is that you lose the desire to channel surf. Is that a good thing or bad thing? Brandon Ross of LightShed Ventures wonders if the difficulty that comes with going from app to app will help Amazon keep viewers on TNF the entire time no matter what the score of the game is. If it does, Amazon needs to work on developing programming to surround the games or start replaying the games, pre and post shows so that when you fall asleep and wake up you’re still on the same stream on Prime Video or so that coming to Prime Video for sports becomes just as much of a habit for fans as tuning in to ESPN is.
  • CNN has announced the launch of a new morning show with Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlin Collins. Variety reports, “Two people familiar with plans for the show say it is likely to use big Warner Bros. properties — a visit from the cast of HBO’s Succession or sports analysis from TNT’s NBA crew — to lure eyeballs.” It’ll be interesting to see if Turner Sports becomes a cornerstone of this broadcast. Will the NBA start doing schedule releases during the show? Will a big Taylor Rooks interview debut on this show before it appears on B/R? Will the Stanley Cup or Final Four MVP do an interview on CNN’s show the morning after winning the title? Does the show do remote broadcasts from Turner’s biggest sports events throughout the year?
  • The Clippers are back on over the air television. They announced a deal with Nexstar to broadcast games on KTLA and other Nexstar owned affiliates in California. The team hasn’t reached a deal to air games on Bally Sports SoCal or Bally Sports Plus for the upcoming season. Could the Clippers pursue a solo route and start their own OTT service in time for the season? Are they talking to Apple, Amazon, or ESPN about a local streaming deal? Is Spectrum a possible destination? I think these are all possibilities but its likely that the Clippers end up back on Bally Sports since its the status quo. I just find it interesting that it has taken so long to solidify an agreement and that it wasn’t announced in conjunction with the KTLA deal. The Clippers are finally healthy this season, moving into a new arena soon, have the technology via Second Spectrum to produce immersive game casts. Maybe something is brewing?
  • ESPN’s Monday Night Football double box was a great concept. The execution sucked. Kudos to ESPN for adjusting on the fly once complaints began to lodge across social media. I think the double box works as a separate feed. ESPN2 should’ve been the home to the double box. SVP and Stanford Steve could’ve held a watch party from ESPN’s DC studio with special guests. The double box watch party on ESPN2 could’ve been interrupted whenever SVP was giving an update on games for ESPN and ABC. It would give ESPN2 a bit of a behind the scenes look at how the magic happens similarly to what MLB Tonight did last week. Credit to ESPN and the NFL for experimenting and continuing to try and give fans unique experiences.

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ESPN Shows Foresight With Monday Night Football Doubleheader Timing

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7 and then 10 on their primary channel.

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The Monday Night Football doubleheader was a little bit different this time around for ESPN.

First, it came in Week 2 instead of Week 1. And then, the games were staggered 75 minutes apart on two different channels, the Titans and Bills beginning on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET and the Vikings at the Eagles starting at 8:30 PM on ABC and ESPN+. This was a departure from the usual schedule in which the games kicked off at 7:00 PM ET and then 10:00 PM ET with the latter game on the West Coast.

ESPN is obviously testing something, and it’s worth poking around at why the network wouldn’t follow the schedule it has used for the last 16 years, scheduling kickoffs at 7:00 PM and then 10:00 PM ET on their primary channel. That’s the typical approach, right? The NFL is the most valuable offering in all of sports and ESPN would have at least six consecutive hours of live programming without any other game to switch to.

Instead, they staggered the starts so the second game kicked off just before the first game reached halftime. They placed the games on two different channels, which risked cannibalizing their audience. Why? Well, it’s the same reason that ESPN was so excited about the last year’s Manningcast that it’s bringing it back for 10 weeks this season. ESPN is not just recognizing the reality of how their customers behave, but they’re embracing it.

Instead of hoping with everything they have that the customer stays in one place for the duration of the game, they’re recognizing the reality that they will leave and providing another product within their portfolio to be a destination when they do.

It’s the kind of experiment everyone in broadcasting should be investigating because, for all the talk about meeting the customer where they are, we still tend to be a little bit stubborn about adapting to what they do. 

Customers have more choices than ever when it comes to media consumption. First, cable networks softened the distribution advantages of broadcast networks, and now digital offerings have eroded the distribution advantages of cable networks. It’s not quite a free-for-all, but the battle for viewership is more intense, more wide open than ever because that viewer has so many options of not just when and where but how they will consume media.

Programmers have a choice in how to react to this. On the one hand, they can hold on tighter to the existing model and try to squeeze as much out of it as they can. If ESPN was thinking this way it would stack those two Monday night games one after the other just like it always has and hope like hell for a couple of close games to juice the ratings. Why would you make it impossible for your customer to watch both of these products you’ve paid so much to televise?

I’ve heard radio programmers and hosts recite take this same approach for more than 10 years now when it comes to making shows available on-demand. Why would you give your customers the option of consuming the product in a way that’s not as remunerative or in a way that is not measured?

That thinking is outdated and it is dangerous from an economic perspective because it means you’re trying to make the customer behave in your best interest by restricting their choices. And maybe that will work. Maybe they like that program enough that they’ll consume it in the way you’d prefer or maybe they decide that’s inconvenient or annoying or they decide to try something else and now this customer who would have listened to your product in an on-demand format is choosing to listen to someone else’s product entirely.

After all, you’re the only one that is restricting that customer’s choices because you’re the only one with a desire to keep your customer where he is. Everyone else is more than happy to give your customer something else. 

There’s a danger in holding on too tightly to the existing model because the tighter you squeeze, the more customers will slip through your fingers, and if you need a physical demonstration to complete this metaphor go grab a handful of sand and squeeze it hard.

Your business model is only as good as its ability to predict the behavior of your customers, and as soon as it stops doing that, you need to adjust that business model. Don’t just recognize the reality that customers today will exercise the freedom that all these media choices provide, embrace it.

Offer more products. Experiment with more ways to deliver those products. The more you attempt to dictate the terms of your customer’s engagement with your product, the more customers you’ll lose, and by accepting this you’ll open yourself to the reality that if your customer is going to leave your main offering, it’s better to have them hopping to another one of your products as opposed to leaving your network entirely.

Think in terms of depth of engagement, and breadth of experience. That’s clearly what ESPN is doing because conventional thinking would see the Manningcast as a program that competes with the main Monday Night Football broadcast, that cannibalizes it. ESPN sees it as a complimentary experience. An addition to the main broadcast, but it also has the benefit that if the customer feels compelled to jump away from the main broadcast – for whatever reason – it has another ESPN offering that they may land on.

I’ll be watching to see what ESPN decides going forward. The network will have three Monday Night Football doubleheaders beginning next year, and the game times have not been set. Will they line them up back-to-back as they had up until this year? If they do it will be a vote of confidence that its traditional programming approach that evening is still viable. But if they overlap those games going forward, it’s another sign that less is not more when it comes to giving your customers a choice in products.

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Media Noise: Sunday Ticket Has Problems, Marcellus Wiley Does Not

Demetri Ravanos

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On this episode of Media Noise, Demetri is joined by Brian Noe to talk about the wild year FS1’s Marcellus Wiley has had and by Garrett Searight to discuss the tumultuous present and bright future of NFL Sunday Ticket.

ITunes: https://buff.ly/3PjJWpO

Spotify: https://buff.ly/3AVwa90

iHeart: https://buff.ly/3cbINCp

Google: https://buff.ly/3PbgHWx

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3cbIOpX

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