Something is happening to ESPN that I don’t think they expected when they signed on to do the SEC Network. The blacklash for perceived SEC Bias from ESPN. The backlash is real and it is growing.The examples of the backlash are significant in number. The twitter account @SECExposed has nearly 5,000 followers. Two weeks ago we told about the movement by Florida State fans to boycott Gameday in Tallahassee. While Gameday boycott never came to fruition, the fact that it was even suggested would have been unheard in years past. Popular Florida State blog Tomahawknation pointed how ESPN said FSU struggeled with Wake Forest in a 43-3 win.
It’s not just twitter accounts, and FSU fans taking ESPN to task.
Nebraska football Head Coach Bo Pelini had this to say…
“I don’t think that kind of relationship is good for college football. That’s just my opinion,” Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini said Monday. “Anytime you have a relationship with somebody, you have a partnership, you are supposed to be neutral. It’s pretty hard to stay neutral in that situation.”
The relationship Pelini describes is ESPN’s partnership with the SEC in the SEC Network.
The Blog AwfulAnnouncing recently wrote a piece – Skepticism of ESPN’s Business interests isn’t stupid, it’s necessary. From that article…
The ESPN-SEC contract that runs till 2034 isn’t just the longest sports rights deal, it’s the longest deal in all of television.
- In 2008, ESPN signed a 15 year, $2.25 billion dollar deal with the SEC.
- This year, ESPN launched the SEC Network and the league’s revenue (and ESPN’s financial investment) is bound to skyrocket. ESPN owns the SEC Network and splits the profit with the SEC 50/50.
- ESPN worked directly with each individual school in the SEC to upgrade their broadcast facilities and capabilities for the SEC Network.
The fine College Sports Blog TheStudentSection also addresses this topic as they discuss the now infamous comments from Gameday Host Chris Fowler and what it says about ESPN and College Football.
B1G fans convinced SEC coverage traced to company business: NOTHING would boost abc/ESPN CFB biz more than a dominant B1G. Nothing. Trust me
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) October 22, 2014
That Fowler is making any mention of the SECBias speaks volumes. ESPN is more than aware of the backlash.
The SEC Bias topic has now jump the sharked so to speak. From Team Blogs, opposing coaches, and sports to national non-sports publications.
RollingStone Magazine even asks is ESPN pushing pro-SEC Agenda. Rolling freaking Stone? Whether you think Rolling Stone has no business commenting on college athletics they make a point that should be the concern of every non-SEC college football fan in America.
Despite the advent this year of a playoff, the polls matter, perhaps as much as ever. The Playoff Selection Committee’s rankings are formulated by a membership whose decisions will undoubtedly be based to some degree on polls determined by lazy voters who are influenced by media coverage of the sport – coverage that is dominated by ESPN.
In the first playoff rankings released Tuesday night, 3 SEC West teams were in the top 4. Now let’s not panic, there’s plenty of time for the playoffs to be sorted out. You won’t see 3 SEC teams in the playoffs… I think. The point here is there is a perceived bias backlash, and as I’ve said it’s real and growing.
Whether ESPN truly has a SEC agenda or not has now become immaterial. For a media entity to have that perception from a national audience is inevitably bad for business.
You only need to look at the nature of the new media to understand that. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC etc each try to prove they are the unbiased news source. Fox News even advertises itself as the “Fair and Balanced” network. They news channels will typically bring on guests and sometimes even programming that is contrast to their overall political leanings.
Don’t look now but Fox Sports 1 is entering the all sports channel market. While ESPN clearly dominates the sports television now, they probably want to keep it that way.
What does mean for the ACC, the conference we cover primarily cover? Much of the backlash for ESPN is the launch of the SEC Network. How can ESPN counter this? With an ACC Network of course. Don’t get me wrong. This won’t be why an ACC network is created, but it could be an unintended benefit when it launches. Two conferences channels covering nearly 28 5/8 teams?
It would be that much harder for critics of the ESPN to say their are completely in bed with the SEC if another major conference had their own network under the umbrella of ESPN.