ESPN: Too Focused On New York, Boston Teams?

Vanity Fair contributing editor and Red Sox obsessive Seth Mnookin (whom we interviewed in a previous incarnation), recently spoke to about the Sox. But what caught our eye was his take on how ESPN plays the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry for ratings:

“ESPN does get rapped for being too Red Sox-Yankees-centric, and people complain about how suffocating the media is in Boston… The only reason that is happening is because that’s what the audience wants. It’s not like the people who are running ESPN are all huge Red Sox fans. They’re in a business, and they want to do whatever is going to get the most ratings, and the Red Sox and the Yankees are going to get them the most ratings. It’s the same in Boston. If every time there was four hours straight on WEEI about the Red Sox, they lost 50 percent of their listeners, and those listeners came back when they were talking about the statehouse or the Bruins, then you’d get four hours of the statehouse and the Bruins. I understand why it can be frustrating if you’re living in Cleveland or Seattle or you’re a really rabid Astros fan, or something, but it’s the reality of the marketplace. Maybe it’s naive of me, but sports is entertainment. ESPN is an entertainment channel. Game stories, sports talk radio… all of that is essentially entertainment. It’s not the same as decisions that go into resources for a newspaper’s news hole, or what is going to get coverage on CNN, or whatever, even though it’s the same market pressures that affect what is going on there.”

Which we can understand. Given the traditional media markets of both teams (and, seriously: click on that link. it’s good), the total number of combined fans easily approaches 10% of the national population. Besides, Dodgers vs. Padres and Phillies vs. Pirates rivalries just don’t have the same drama.

— Neal Ungerleider