The Empire Strikes Back: ESPN responds to rebel FS1


Mike Soltys, vice president in ESPN’s PR corporate communications has an amusing rebuttal to some of the ratings jabs thrown by FS1 titled: Fox v. ESPN: Anatomy of a moving target.

Mike writes a lot better than I do so I’m not going to summarize his bullet points. He makes the compelling and accurate smackdown-ish case that ESPN’s ratings are in much better shape than FS1’s. That’s undeniable and makes for good PR.

In ESPN’s shoes I hope I could’ve resisted the urge to set the record straight. I don’t blame them though. Over time, executives at FS1 have said some stuff that made even the most mild-mannered at ESPN think “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Soltys’ smackdown of FS1’s ratings is accurate and (I think) deserved.  You can’t  blame anyone at ESPN who deals with ratings PR for thinking “You’ve seen our ratings. You’ve seen their ratings. Why are we still talking about this!?” Maybe in posting this ESPN hoped to stave off further commentary on the topic. Good luck with that!

For entertainment purposes I hope the back and forth between ESPN and FS1 continues but I wonder if even in mocking FS1, ESPN didn’t make FS1 seem more legitimate for a moment.

But I think when it comes to how ESPN judges itself internally, how ESPN compares to itself (i.e. how is ESPN doing versus how ESPN usually does?) is a much bigger factor than how ESPN is doing versus its competition.  On that score, ESPN has some challenges/opportunities.

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  1. ESPN gets amazing ratings often and decent ratings constantly. Fox Sports and NBC Sports get decent ratings only at specific events.

    Even NBCSN’s midweek NHL games are poor versus ESPN basketball.

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