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FiveThirtyEight Plans To Stick Around For a While

Jason Barrett

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When ESPN turned out the lights on Grantland last fall, one of the big questions was how long it would be until FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s data journalism outfit, followed Grantland out the door. After all, the metrics-focused site was just as much of an odd fit within the sports media empire.

But, two years after its launch, FiveThirtyEight is growing both its traffic and headcount — and says that ESPN has every interest in keeping it around. Its editorial staff is now at 43, and it’s pushing out 10 stories a day, with plans to double that number this year.

Managing editor David Firestone pointed to FiveThirtyEight’s headcount, which increased by 17 people in the past year. Three of those additions were to the site’s video team, which is helping FiveThirtyEight with short-form clips, such as “The Dean Scream,” a 10-minute exploration of Howard Dean’s campaign-ending yawp in 2004.

On that front, FiveThirtyEight seems to realize it can’t live off politics coverage alone, especially after the presidential election. So in addition to politics and sports, it’s also applied its formula to cover The Oscars, Fandango’s Rotten Tomatoes deal and Harper Lee. It’s also building out its science and health coverage (it hired The New York Times Magazine science columnist Maggie Koerth-Baker this week). FiveThirtyEight even plans to venture into eSports coverage later this year.

 

The bigger nagging question, though, is how long ESPN’s support for FiveThirtyEight will last. While the company said that it was “totally committed” to FiveThirtyEight, ESPN itself is in a bit of a rough patch. In Disney’s last quarter, ESPN’s unit, which also includes the Disney Channels and ABC, posted a 5.6 percent decline in operating income, thanks to subscriber declines and higher programming costs. It’s going to be hard for ESPN to justify keeping something like FiveThirtyEight around if it’s not generating revenue.

“They have to support themselves, because ESPN is not going to he happy about losing money anywhere,” said Seth Alpert, managing director at advisory firm AdMedia Partners, adding that FiveThirtyEight already seems to be further along, monetization-wise, than Grantland was when ESPN pulled the plug.

 

“Grantland had some issues after [founder Bill] Simmons left. There was some tension there, but that’s not the situation here,” said Firestone, who said that the site has a “great” relationship with ESPN. “I know people looked at Grantland and said something similar would happen to us, but I don’t think there’s any sign of that. Everyone’s committed to this for the long haul.”

To read the rest of the article visit Digiday where it was originally published

 

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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