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The Failing World Wide Leader

by C. Ross Jam on July 26, 2017

Over seven years ago, I hypothesized about ESPN falling from, what looked like at the time, an unassailable perch. All my speculation turned out to be off base, but ESPN has been taking it in the shorts recently. Witness The Athletic preparing to swoop on newly available talent, according to Bloomberg.

2017 is shaping up to be a rough year for sports journalism. ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo Sports have all cut staff positions in the last several months, showing the deep cracks in the predominant business model of online sports news. The founders of the Athletic, an 18-month-old online sports publication, see opportunity in the struggles of the biggest companies. As the news of the cuts kept coming, co-founders Alex Mather and Adam Hansmann, who have no previous journalism experience, hastily pulled together $5.8 million in new capital from investors, in a round they closed last week. The plan is to scoop up laid-off writers, and put them to work building a new kind of sports news operation as the traditional industry leaders are in retreat.

From what I can tell, a combo of mobile / digital (cannibalizing cable subscriptions on volume and price) and demographics (younger folks interested in “edgier” not SportsCenter) are the trends causing fits in Bristol, Conn.

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