What do ESPN and Starbucks have in common?
I wrote a column Friday about clutter in the sports media marketplace in which I quoted Jamie Horowitz, the ESPN executive behind the controversial "First Take" and a guy whose job it is to create more shows for the network.
Horowitz is a smart, interesting fellow, so it is worth quoting more of his thoughts than I could fit previously. (These are comments from a lunch we shared several months back, before the recent Rob Parker kerfuffle.)
On good shows with low ratings:
"My belief on TV is something ["Pardon the Interruption" creator] Eric Rydholm instilled in me five years ago. He said to me, 'Don't talk about the people who watch your show as viewers. Call them customers. They're customers and they choose not to watch your show that is the equivalent of them choosing not to buy your coffee.
"'So don't sit there and say my coffee is great. It's not great. If it was great, they would be buying it. Don't sit there and say, this show is great and nobody watches it. If it was great then people would watch - generally.'
"The other side also is true: The ratings continue to go up on a show, I still hear the critics say they have concerns. I hear it. But I watch the ratings constantly go up and that tells me viewers are voting with their eyeballs. They're saying they want to watch more or longer. That means they want to buy more coffee. If we're selling more coffee than we ever have before, we must be doing something right.'"
On the sports media clutter in general, using a restaurant analogy referenced in the Friday column:
"You might walk in and see everyone is selling pizza and say, 'I don't know what we're going to do.' So you say, 'Why don't we sell sushi? Why don't we just get in a totally different lane?' So if these people are doing a news show, why don't we do a debate show? Someone is doing a show for adult journalists, why don't we do a show for college kids?
"That's sort of where we've found our lane on 'SportsNation' versus 'First Take' versus some previous shows."
On the danger of ESPN competing against itself with shows on ESPN and ESPN2:
"Starbucks came up with that idea long before we did. They found a corner where they were selling a lot of coffee and said, 'OK, where's the next area where we should open a Starbucks?' Across the street? Really? Yeah, that's the place people want to get coffee, so now we can get them going both ways."