Is ESPN Forcing ABC To Get Out of the Sports Business?

As I’m sitting here at my desk listening to Sirius Octane and smiling that the channel was not cut from the newly merged Sirius XM lineup, it just hit me that ESPN may be taking ABC out of the sports business.

In 2006, ABC Sports was officially disbanded when the ESPN brand became prevalent on all sports programming shown on the American Broadcasting Company. ESPN had been running ABC Sports under Disney’s leadership since 1996 anyway, so it was only natural for the Worldwide Leader to swallow ABC Sports leaving behind a legacy that Roone Arledge, Jim McKay, Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson and so many others had worked hard to raise.

Now, we’re seeing the beginning of the end of sports on ABC. Yes, there’s NASCAR, college basketball and the NBA, but all are under the production banner of ESPN.

With the Open Championship all about signed to be an ESPN-only event and the Bowl Championship Series considering a similar offer by the Worldwide Leader, how far behind are NASCAR, NBA, college football and other events that ESPN has under its umbrella becoming cable-exclusive?

In the original story written by the Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand and Jon Snow about ESPN’s bid for the Open Championship, it states:

Industry sources said the time windows, and not the value of the British Open as a property, were the primary reasons behind the move to cable.

This brings to mind the move on Sunday to cut off the NASCAR race and send the Eastern and Central time zones to ABC’s primetime lineup instead of staying with the event. Knowing that the race was about to intrude on “America’s Funniest Home Videos”, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”, “Desperate Housewives” and “Brothers & Sisters”, ABC chose the time window instead of the sports property.

If Disney valued Monday Night Football as an over the air property for ABC, it would have kept the series for the network instead of allowing ESPN to buy it for itself.

Certainly if Disney wanted to keep sports on ABC, it would urge ESPN to do so, but with the Worldwide Leader seeking more events, it would have more value airing the games on its own network instead of outsourcing them to ABC where it has to buy the time as if it were an informercial.

So perhaps we’re seeing the end of an era with the Open Championship being siphoned to ESPN, the BCS going all-cable and who’s to say the events currently airing on ABC won’t be going to ESPN soon afterwards?

Ken Fang

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013. He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television. Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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