Why So Serious, ESPN?

ESPN recently launched a new ad campaign to question the cord cutting, streaming service culture that represents media’s bright future. On the surface, we should give them some credit. They’ve diagnosed a big market trend – albeit an obvious one – with big implications for their audience. But where they fall short is in their response. They don’t have one.

Full credit to Mashable, who nails it – this campaign is designed to “stoke a sense of FOMO among prospective ESPN viewers.” The underlying message: while you’re busy Snapchatting, Facebooking, and Interwebbing away, you’re missing some quality live television. For a network dubbed as the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” we should expect more. Especially from a network whose previous campaigns are absolute gold.

A critical reason is that live broadcasts and original programming are increasingly offered via stream. Networks from HBO to CBS have launched their own, standalone streaming apps. Meanwhile, ESPN is left holding the bag.

Consider this. Would Netflix have survived if it stuck with DVD mailings? Or Amazon, if it stuck with just e-commerce? Or Twitter if it stuck with, well, just tweeting?

The point is that technology’s rapid evolution isn’t limited to just one medium. Audiences – regardless of demographic – are increasingly inclined to multitask. And it’s human nature to gravitate to what makes your life easier, so that you can spend more time enjoying things that make you happy. It sounds like a feel-good infomercial. But this is one of the guiding principles that compels innovative companies to evolve how they create and deliver programming.

There is still room in this world for cable television, just as there is for print newspapers and DVD players (I still love the latter two). As long as consumers are willing to seek out and pay for these mediums, they will continue to exist. But it’s foolhardy to assume that something better won’t come along. That’s why companies like ESPN should be serious about considering the future of multimedia instead of clinging to the present.

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