ESPN plays Grinch to NBC
ESPN decided Thursday to match NBC's offer to the Big East, which the Sherman Report compared to the Grinch swiping the last crumb in Whoville – one too small even for a mouse.
That's pretty much what the Big East has become in programming terms, but ESPN wanted to keep it anyway, even though it has far less need for it than does NBC Sports Network.
Why the aggressiveness? Because amid proliferating sports channels and finite content, TV types feel pressured to control as much of it as possible – and to keep it away from competitors.
When I asked ESPN president John Skipper recently whether there are enough people to consume all of the sports programming now available, he said this:
"What there is not enough of is marquee live events that get big ratings. That's going to be a scarce commodity."
Fortunately for ESPN, in the short-to-intermediate term it has plenty of attractive properties locked up.
"What we have to do," Skipper said, "is build upon that, start new businesses, make sure our mobile works, grow in Latin America, so that we continue to have the money it will take to buy that marquee product."