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ESPN Ombudsman Talks Olbermann, Silver Joining Net, "Nine For IX" Broadcast
Published July 31, 2013
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WALKING THROUGH THAT DOOR: Lipsyte discussed the recent high-profile hirings by ESPN of Keith Olbermann and Nate Silver. While responses to Olbermann’s return were "predominantly political," Williamson and other ESPN execs "will be tracking age demographics" after Olbermann's self-titled show debuts on ESPN2 Aug. 26. Williamson noted that Olbermann left ESPN 16 years ago, which "means there are viewers who don’t remember when he and Dan Patrick were the reigning stars of 'SportsCenter.'" Meanwhile, watching the Silver hire play out "should be fascinating." Lipsyte: "Will Silver extend the reach of ESPN into politics, weather, education, you name it? Will the Silver site become a duchy within the ESPN kingdom? Will it affect other franchise players?" The two moves "didn’t happen in a Bristol bubble," as Fox is debuting FS1 on Aug. 17. That is the "first potentially serious challenger to ESPN’s hegemony." These will be "interesting times for ESPN viewers, readers and listeners, not to mention the company’s employees" (ESPN.com, 7/30).
SILVER LINING: Silver participated in an online chat at DEADSPIN.com on Monday and wrote he plans to "hire people (whether as full-timers or freelancers) devoted to politics/elections, sports (preferably people who can cover several different sports as opposed to just one), and economics." There might be a couple of people "who can flex between different categories, e.g. sports and politics." Silver: "We'll have people who specialize in sports, I'm sure, as opposed to politics or economics or culture. But I'm not sure that we'll have people who specialize only in (say) baseball or golf, as opposed to sports more broadly." Silver also wrote the "goal is perhaps to have a site where we're publishing 3-4 articles per weekday, plus perhaps some blogs and other quick-hit type stuff." Silver also wrote when he was "negotiating with ESPN, they said 'yes' to an awful lot of things, in terms of our vision for the site." But the "one thing they were firm about is that they had to buy the 538 brand name and the URL." The "basic reason is that they're going to be investing lots of additional resources into 538, and no well-run business is going to be willing to do that and then have the brand yanked away from them at the end of the contract." So it was a "question of either keeping 538 as is (essentially a 2-3 person operation) and perhaps keeping the trade name -- or doing something bigger and bolder and more entrepreneurial, but also selling the 538 name as part of the package" (DEADSPIN.com, 7/29).