White Hat Sports Headlines

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Great Idea, Poor Execution.

I am watching ESPN Classic. Which I love and I hate. I'll explain.

I first fell into a disfunctional relationship with ESPN Classic when my parents got Prime Star (a satillite company now defunct) and was introduced to the third ESPN channel in my life, this was late 1996. Back when I wanted the Patriots to draft Tyronne Poole (they would later pick him off the scrap heap, it wasn't as good as I imagined) Mo Vaughn was the king of the world (I even met him in the fall of '96.), so pretty much, things were good. The first show that got me into ESPN Classic was Home Run Derby. A Hollywood television show of the real Mid-Summer classic, where two Major League ballplayers would face off in a head to head, 9 inning home run derby. Looking back, the show was kind of poorly done, it was heavily edited, they would take a clip of the guy swinging in the on deck circle and then show the ball flying over the fence. The show captivated me though and still does to this day because it is interesting to see guys such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle and Harmon Killebrew in their prime. The show came out on DVD a couple summers ago and yes I own them. Below is the link to Amazon.com where you can get them cheap.
The only problem with ESPN Classic running the show was that they showed it 6am. I was just young enough to still get up that this time, but even then I knew Classic wasn't all it should be. I imagined the channel showing old games, old shows like the Derby and other great sporting events from before I was born that were well, classic. Instead what I found was old boxing matches that took place about 3 years before on ESPN 2 that nobody watched then and certainly didn't want to watch now. As if that wasn't bad enough, it went from bad to worse when they would block off hours for nothing but rodeo, bowling and billiards. My question was, are they people who really want to relive the 1987 Dallas Open?
The point of all of this is, why does ESPN classic still show mostly bowling and billiards? Does this get ratings or do they just have nothing else to show? This afternoon they showed something called Sports Challenge. The idea is that 3 people from a team would compete as their team in a sports trivia game show. Now it was a good premice that was horribly executed, much like the Home Run Derby show it was kidn of cool to see Red Auerbach, Bill Russell and John Havlicek sitting at a table like they're on the Newly Wed Game. On a side note, it's funny to see that even on a short lived game show, the Celtics were 4 time champions and openly mocked the other team when they got a big lead. It was fantastic, it was like Auerbach had Hondo and Russ practicing before they went onto the show. Somewhere in his office, I bet Red even had a small banner made up for the Celtics victories on Sports Challenge.
Now sometimes Classic does show an old game, one that has been long since forgotten, but has some sort of significance. This is where Classic is threatened by NBA TV, MLB, NHL and NFL Networks. They show old games, they show documentaries on classic teams and series and pivotal moments. They in essence show everything that you would want to see on Classic, and they even divide it up by sport on their own channels. Where does this leave Classic?
It's hard to say, but they could definately have a niche. They own the rights to the games broadcast on their channel (as does the other major sports as well as their networks) so they can still run those to maintain the classic feel. What they need to do is clean house. The best things that Classic has going for it is the old shows, bring in more of them, find all that you can and show them. The more random the better, who knows what people will like and what will become nostalgic. American Gladiators is about Classic's most watched show. Whenever it's on, it seems like one of my friends are watching it. AWA Wrestling, it can be brutal to watch at times, but at the end of each hour it is fun to watch the "Main Event".
Pretty much, ESPN Classic had a monopoly on the showing of older sports content market, and now that market is fragmented by all of the specialty stations run by MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL. Classic may have missed it's window, unless they are catering to that Bowling and Billiards crowd. In that case, they are in a league all their own.

Sterling Pingree

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