Waiting for ESPN (on Twitter)

On this fine, blustery, snowy, gusty Saturday morning, when I should be at Belmont but I am instead at home, I was engaging in a leisurely breakfast coupled with some serious procrastinating when I noticed that Twitter suggested that I follow @espnhorseracing.

@espnhorseracing? Who knew? Cool!

Except…@espnhorseracing last tweeted on August 20, 2010.  That tweet was a link to an ESPN racing blog last updated…November 6, 2010.

Silly me, for thinking that I’d find some tweets about the Breeders’ Cup, which ESPN (along with ABC, ESPN2, and ESPN3 (Yes. ESPN3? Anyone out there get that?)) is covering in six days.

A spirited conversation about ESPN’s coverage sprang up on Twitter; I was quickly informed that an @ESPNBreederscup account existed, raising my hopes…only to have them dashed again when I discovered that that account, less than a week before the event, has exactly one, meager, self-promotional tweet, from about 10 days ago, and it’s a retweet of an @breederscup announcement about…ESPN’s television coverage of the event. So it wasn’t even really about the racing. It was about itself.

I get that racing is small potatoes in the ESPN garden. But it seems foolish, short-sighted, and oblivious to make a commitment to covering a sporting event for two full days without taking advantage of Twitter. Like it or not (and ESPN does like Twitter, that’s for sure), Twitter is an essential medium, and ESPN is simply ignoring the large, varied, and significant racing community there. Unlike fans of other sports, many racing fans get a bulk of their coverage from Twitter (because networks like ESPN can’t usually be bothered to pay attention to the sport); there’s a built-in, receptive, engaged, active community that the Worldwide Leader is simply ignoring.

Thanks again, ESPN.

6 thoughts on “Waiting for ESPN (on Twitter)

  1. Not to pile on ESPN any more baggage than has already been commented upon, I am tempted to bring up all those unfortunate ESPN telecasts I had the misfortune to be part of during the late 1980s.

    Those were the days, Teresa, when CBS was losing out to ABC in horse-race coverage for financial packages with NYRA and Churchill Downs, not for competitively aesthetic reasons. That conversion began the American-television trend away from horseracing, I am sorry to say, because Capital Cities shuffled the horseracing stuff to its cable outlet, ESPN, where there were fewer viewers nationally than now attend the races at Aqueduct in January.

    Production values of the ESPN crew were lower than for our NYRA-NYCOTB WOR-TV shows through 1984, bottom-level honoraria replaced hard cash as negotiated payment for services if payment was ever made, equipment rarely worked when needed and ESPN never promoted properly. They were a slipshod outfit twenty-five years ago, and I would guess they still are judging from what I see when flipping channels at home.

    That you should receive miscues from Twitter for @espnhorseracing does not surprise; just another example of ESPN’s haphazard approach to our favorite game.

  2. Very interesting note on why horse racing coverage faltered some Marshall, although a lot of that likely would have happened anyway, as I originally wrote as part of a response to a blog by Valerie Grash on why the BC is bad for Horse Racing (http://www.toosmarttofail.com/forums/showthread.php?21597-Blog-Why-the-Breeders-Cup-is-Bad-for-Horse-Racing):

    It needs to be remembered that when the the Breeders’ Cup was conceived in 1982, the NCAA had a monopoly on College Football broadcast rights (restricting for example how many times a school could be on television per season) that would be struck down by the Supreme Court in 1984. That ruling led to over time more and more college football being shown to where it’s now wall-to-wall football from Noon until past midnight most weeks in the late summer and most of the fall, something John Gaines could not have foreseen when he created the BC. The increased popularity of college football and bigger TV ratings have led to games in prime time, as it is one of the few events that does well in the TV ratings in what is TV’s “black hole.”

    That said, the completely unexpected move of LSU-Alabama into prime time by CBS a week ago actually had it looking until Sunday afternoon as if Disney (and they may actually have been seriously contemplating this) could have moved the ABC portion of the Breeders’ Cup telecast from its scheduled 2:00-3:30 PM ET before ESPN’s 3:30-7:15 PM ET portion (that includes the Classic) to AFTER ESPN’s portion (that in this scenario would have been extended to 7:30 PM ET), with ABC’s portion subsequently including the Classic and running from 7:30-9:30 PM ET, with ABC giving local affiliates 9:30-10:00 PM ET and moving its Saturday Night Football telecast back two hours to 10:00 PM ET, with in that scenario, Kansas State-Oklahoma State the lone game and Notre Dame-Wake Forest remaining in its scheduled 7:00 PM ET slot on ESPN2 (as opposed to the split of those two games between ABC and ESPN2 at 8:00 PM ET that now will be the case, with one game on each network at that time). Had that been done, the main reason for doing so would have been so ABC could have served up the BC Classic as a “sacrificial lamb” opposite LSU-Alabama (which figures to get double digit ratings on CBS in what is certain to be the most watched regular season college football game in over a decade) and give ABC stations with a 10:00 PM ET kickoff for Kansas State-Oklahoma State the chance to pick up a large number of viewers from LSU-Alabama (which has an 8:00 PM ET kickoff) once that game concluded on CBS. That’s what Disney could very possibly have been looking at, especially measuring if they would have gotten enough additional ad dollars to make that move worthwhile.

    What this did show, however, is that in general, Breeders’ Cup Ltd. needs to be in a position to be much more reactive when necessary and be able to make moves on short notice. This is a fact of life in sports today, and being able to move and be flexible on short notice is something this sport is going to have to be willing to do (including moving stakes races from the afternoon to prime time if television dictates such).

    That said, what I do think may very well happen is in 2014, the Breeders’ Cup winds up in prime time with a return to NBC, which would LOVE to have an event like the BC fill up all of Saturday prime time plus an hour of Friday prime time (running on Friday on NBC Sports Network from 7:00-10:00 PM ET and NBC from 10:00-11:00 PM ET and Saturday on NBC from 4:30 or 5:00-11:00 PM ET). That shows how much the television landscape has changed just since the BC was last on NBC in 2005.

    The sport in general needs to be more flexible, and this entire exercise with LSU-Alabama being unexpectedly moved to prime time shows this in my opinion.

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