The ESPN Model

A different game.


As a business, ESPN thrives because it is playing a different game than the big public-airwaves networks. NBC and CBS make money from advertising. ESPN does, too, but it takes in even more from cable-subscriber fees — an average of $4.69 per household per month, according to research from SNL Kagan. Last February, ESPN entered its 100 millionth American home. By comparison, the next costliest national network, TNT, takes in just $1.16 from about as many homes.” *

Sometimes it’s easier to see the lint in someone else’s eye than the giant redwood in your own.

Powered by the dual revenue stream of ads plus surcharges, ESPN has since grown to include ESPN2, ESPN News, ESPN Classic, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, and 47 international channels; the largest sports-radio network in America; a website that clocks 52 million unique visitors a month; and its own $100 million theme park in Florida.”

Sometimes we understand only after the fact, when the dots connect to form a picture we wouldn’t otherwise have noticed.

They’re on your telephone, your laptop — they want to be everywhere…”

Hmmmm…who does that sound like? Radio or Pandora? Radio or Sirius? Radio or Spotify?

With revenue of $8.5 billion last year, ESPN has become the principal cash spigot of the Walt Disney Co…To the largest entertainment corporation on earth, the backwater of Bristol has become more important than Disney World and Disneyland combined.”

It didn’t start off to do that. It took leadership willing to invest for the long haul rather than hitting a monthly revenue target. It required constant reinvestment to fuel continual growth. ESPN was/is always about offense, not defense.20120108  FBNSteelersBroncosp2 GALLERY

The very reason Tim Tebow was able to complete an 80-yard TD pass on the very first overtime play in his very first NFL playoff game against Pittsburgh’s vaunted defense was the fact that he hadn’t once tried to do that during regulation.

The long bomb worked because of Denver’s patience, not Tebow’s skill.

The only broadcast radio I know that is actively working on the ESPN model is NPR.

Congress cuts funding? Bring it on! That just means subscribers will write bigger checks to “save” the voice they don’t want to lose.

Does your station offer any content your listeners would pay to save?

Anything at all?

That’s a problem, don’t you think?