If you paid attention to the names coming across yesterday and today among those who were let go from ESPN, you’ll have noted that many of them were figures associated closely with ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” show. The network just announced that it’s cutting that show back from daily (which has been the case since 1990) to a Sunday night only telecast.
They also announced that the MLB Network produced show “Intentional Talk” (which has the dubious distinction of being the worst program the otherwise excellent MLB TV airs, give or take Mad Dog Russo) will now also air on ESPN…sounds like it’ll be on at 4PM on the WWL and then its normal 5 PM slot on MLB TV.
So what does all of this say? What it says to me is that one of the things I’ve been anticipating for years is starting to play out…the league owned networks are becoming more and more important in the overall landscape. This is the first step. I think down the line at some point, and it may come sooner than anyone thinks, the reality will be that the various leagues realize there’s more money to be made by them in controlling distribution of their own content via their own outlets than what a 3rd party like ESPN will be able to afford to pay them.