Friday, June 08, 2007

Oh, Big Brother!

I know networks and content providers have a vested interest in pushing the games and athletes they carry, but it seems like ABC/ESPN went overboard in Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night ... overboard as in "Titanic."

ABC/ESPN owns the rights to the NBA Finals and has spent the better part of a week hyping the appearance of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers against the San Antonio Spurs. The previews were on every ABC/ESPN platform, including ESPN News, which carried a ticker that counted down the hours until the opening tip.

Considering the financial investment involved, such over promotion is understandable. But then ABC/ESPN decided to go "all in" as they say on the networks' countless hours of poker programming (a subject for another day--how networks can make money by showing people playing cards). The opening tip and first 20 minutes of Game 1 were shown simultaneously on all ABC/ESPN platforms! That's ABC, ESPN, ESPN News, ESPN 2 and ESPN Classic (that's all the ESPN I get on DirecTV. I wonder if the game was also shown on Deportes?).

ESPN commonly roadblocks commercials across its networks to give advertisers maximum efficiency, but this is something entirely different. For a few moments I felt like Winston Smith from George Orwell's 1984. Big Brother ABC/ESPN was everywhere, just like critics of media concentration have warned for years. For the most part I have believed that new technologies would open up more channels and give viewers more options. But for a short time Thursday night ABC/ESPN showed all of us what it's like when content and distribution are concentrated in the hands of a sprawling media empire. I don't read anything especially sinister in what happened; but it does seem like we've crossed some Rubicon and there's no turning back.


Blogger Steve Dittmore said...

Hey Brad, you were missing a few platforms. ESPN/ABC used a total of 15. See the release at

And, be prepared for this weekend when NBC airs Tiger Woods teeing off on hole number one on seven different platforms. (See Michael Hiestand's column from June 3 at


1:35 PM  

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