In September of 2015 I made the argument that the “cord cutting” (i.e., people no longer wanting or willing to pay for “bundling”) for ESPN™and others losing subscribers was probably far more due to the adding and bundling of “politics” into these broadcasts, rather than just the wanting of everything “a la carte” defense given by many.
Since then that argument (my argument) has proven out to be more in line for recent drops in viewership than the simple “cord cutting” one. An observation I’ll add that was deemed as “not having a clue” when I first made it.
It would seem today via recent events, as well as even ESPN itself feeling the need to address it this past December, I may have had more of a clue than even I first thought. For the ratings of all these types of programs continues to fall – and fall hard. Why?
They aren’t backing off of the “politics.” Matter of fact – they seem to be doubling down. So much so if you only enter three words into your search engine of choice e.g., “espn ratings politics” the returning headlines for just the past month look more like one was still reading about the match up of Trump vs Clinton, rather than anything resembling a sporting event. Here’s a screenshot on the morning of this writing for your own interpretations. To wit:
As to make, and enforce, my argument that this wasn’t just some form of “correlation vs causation” interpretation. (i.e., That the politic narrative becoming more present was just coincidence as to the drop in viewership vs the actual cause for it as many “analysts” and next-in-rotation-fund-managers across the media were making at that time in 2015) I bolstered (or “doubled down” as many like to say) that argument this past October when I wrote another piece titled: “How To Kill A Brand: Just Add The Political Football”
This was at the very beginning of the season before anyone else was even commentating on, let alone contemplating what is now seen as probably the most politically infused season ever. And the ratings? Hint: Disaster.
Which brings us to “The Big Game!”
I’m going out on a limb and making a prediction. No, I’m not picking a team. (Although I am rooting for Brady as to stuff it down the throats of all those who imply the only reason why he’s won is because of “cheating.” But I digress.) My prediction is far different. Mine is to see just how far, as well as calamitous, the infusion of “all that is political” into what has until recently been one of the most watched sporting events in history, for both the game, as well as halftime celebrations and more. And it is this:
A total ratings disaster.
Whether or not it happens, much like the game, is anyones guess until after the fact. However, if I were betting on the game, I would wager my money on the over-under of the ratings as the score to watch, rather than “the game.” Why?
Well, using myself and a few others I know – this is the first time in recent memory I have absolutely no desire to watch the game. None. I just don’t want even the remote chance that I’m going to hear stuff that’s going to make me get up – and turn the thing off. And I’m not alone, for a few friends said “They might tune in during the game at some point.” I’ve never heard anything even remotely resembling “might” from these people before. Watching, making special preparations (i.e., party) and more has always been a given. Now “maybe?”
I just left it at that because I felt I knew why, but didn’t need to open or delve into any “can of worms” between friends. Again, I have no clue what will entail, but if that’s indicative of more people this year than not? Let’s just say the NFL™ and sports shows in general have another “big” on their hands. And it’s not a game. It’s called a “PR nightmare” where the damage inflicted (as in ratings) may already be done, but what’s worse – irreversible. People move on to other things, I know I have.
However, with all that said I’d like to add one more point to this discussion for your consideration. Or, as they say on TV: “But wait – there’s more!”
One of the reasons I began thinking about all this was borne from a discussion I had with my wife just the other day.
My wife, for years, has made “party” food for the game. This year when she asked me what I wanted and I replied, “Don’t bother I’m probably not even going to watch it” she was taken back and responded, “Really? Well that’s a first, but OK.” And that was that.
I reference the above only for context because about a week later (which was about a day or two ago) I asked my wife if she was doing her usual and making plans as to watch the Oscars™. My wife has watched the Oscars (which is her equivalent of “the big game”) without fail every year that I can remember. And we’re going on 30 years.
She is the most non-political person I know. Usually, no matter what is going on with entertainers and their political views, or speeches (regardless of who, or what side) they roll off her like water-off-a-duck’s-back. She could care less – she’s just there to be entertained.
She loves the glitz and glamor that only Hollywood can provide with the Oscars in-particular being the culmination of just that. That is – until this year.
For the first time ever since I’ve known my wife (remember going on 30 years) she’s not going to watch the Oscars.
I was nearly floored. Her reason?
“I know the political speeches and posturing is going to be insufferable. I watched the SAG™ (Screen Actors Guild) awards and ended up turning it off. It was over the top as I’ve never seen, and if that’s the prelude to the Oscars? I’m just tired of all this political crap in these shows. Maybe next year, who knows.”
I can only equate her statement with that of a die-hard sports fan suddenly stating, “Yeah, I can’t watch the game – I’ve got to clean my garage.” You would be left standing there saying” Wait…what?” Trust me – I did.
Back in December I penned the article: “The Political Celebrity: Another Jump The Shark Moment” I now feel, much like my earlier observations, that I may be far more correct than even I first thought. For if my wife is any indication? The Oscars are about to find out that “backlash” isn’t some movie title. And their ratings this year may give it a trophy it never thought possible. i.e., A participation trophy for worst ratings ever, beating out what many of the so-called “stars” deem as “low brow sports” as opposed to “the arts.”
I further believe the latter “game” may be far more interesting than the former. After all, who can swear more?
A defensive lineman for a bad call? Or Madonna?
© 2017 Mark St.Cyr