Bill Simmons is wrong about how ESPN blew it in digital

Bill Simmons is wrong about how ESPN blew it in digital
Bill Simmons is wrong about how ESPN blew it in digital

Simmons lambasted the ESPN website and app for being behind the competition. He states at one point that Bleacher Report is "way better at social and driving traffic" and that they are "three to four years ahead" of ESPN in their thinking. He says that the Undefeated is too "text-heavy."

Yet, according to the February rankings from ComScore, ESPN is the #1 digital sports media property. Bleacher Report was 8th.

Simmons says that he told now departed VP of digital exec John Kosner several times that ESPN should open an office in Silicon Valley in order to get access to the best talent. Yet, there are management difficulties in running a satellite office and there certainly would have been a much higher cost paying salaries in Silicon Valley versus in Bristol, Connecticut. Would ESPN have been better off? Perhaps. But, again, ESPN is the number one sports destination. How exactly were they being hurt?

Bryan Curtis is correct at the end of the podcast is concluding that ESPN now needs to determine (1) what sports rights it will bid for in the future and (2) what its identify is going to be (e.g., more SportsCenter, more debate shows, other newer shows, a new focus on growth areas like podcasts). These are critical questions.

I would add that ESPN also needs to demonstrate to Wall Street how quickly it can grow a new stream of revenues from digital services which might offset and then grow beyond lost linear subscribers. Nobody expects much from those new digital services. They assume it will be 24 hours of cricket. Maybe it will be actually very popular.

ESPN is far from a perfect media company. It's facing serious challenges -- just like every other media company. Because it's one of the biggest and most profitable, it draws intense scrutiny and criticism. Some of that criticism is fair but some is not.

I would much rather be in their strong financial and market position to manage this transition.


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