I chose to do my cable network analysis paper on ESPN. I chose this network because I use ESPN’s services more than five times a day through the media channels of television, internet, or radio. ESPN stands for Entertainment and Sports Programming Network and is the self proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports”. ESPN is based in Bristol, Connecticut and was launched in 1979 and now ranks second in the top cable networks with over 90 million subscribers (ESPN. com). ESPN since its beginning has created 12 daughter national cable channels which operate under ESPN and the Disney corporation. ESPN is 80 percent owned by ABC, Inc. hich is an indirect subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company or otherwise known as the Disney-ABC Television group. The Hearst Corporation owns 20 percent interest in ESPN (ESPN. com). The Disney Company also owns the cable networks of ABC, Inc. , Disney channel, Toon Disney, Jetix, SOAPnet, and ABC Family. The Disney Company also has equity holdings in several other cable networks such as: Lifetime Entertainment Services, and A&E Television Networks which includes the A&E Network, The History Channel, The Biography Channel, History Channel International, Military History Channel, and Crime & Investigation Network.
The Hearst Corporation owns interest with Disney not only in the ESPN cable network but also in Lifetime Entertainment Services (50% interest) and A&E Television Networks (37. 5% interest) (wikipedia. com). The Disney Company’s objective is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information. The company’s financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flow, and to create long-term shareholder value (Disney. com). ESPN consistently promotes the image of anything and everything that has to do with sports.
ESPN was created to meet a niche market that no one at the time was reaching or satisfying. All of ESPN’s programs on all thirteen cable channels focus around sports, either sporting news, sports entertainment, sports talk, or sporting events. ESPN, in developing its image, not only focuses on the traditional sports but also includes unconventional sports such as extreme sports, racing, poker, hunting and fishing. A lot of ESPN’s commercials even involve professional athletes and images that focus around sports and help develop the image that they try to convey to their viewer.
The target market for ESPN is in general anyone who loves or has an interest in sports. Although ESPN is not just a cable network for men, this seems to be the main demographic that ESPN reaches and where they use their niche marketing. ESPN has been ranked the #1 favorite network among men for the last 7 years, and Sportscenter, ESPN’s signature show is the favorite ad supported program among men (ESPN. com). ESPN has an audience of 75% male and is the leader in that category and they boast more high income male viewers than any other ad-supported network (Campbell).
From watching ESPN one can infer that it is a cable channel focused towards men. One of the most played commercials on ESPN right now is an advertisement for Schick razors which features sports athletes Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, and Roger Federer participating in their respectable sports and then coming together to promote Schick’s new razor. This is obviously a commercial designed to reach the market of men who are concerned with sports and who know who these athletes are because their names are not mentioned in the commercial.
ESPN is pretty consistent in their advertising for programs on their show. I would argue in my experience that ESPN tends to promote their Sportscenter program the most because it is their signature program. One of the reasons that they promote the program is because it is on many times during the late evening, early morning and afternoon. During a baseball game you will see a lot of commercials saying: “Stay tuned for Sportscenter after the game”.
I believe they do this because people have a tendency to change the channel after a program or game is over and they are trying to remind the viewer that you do not have to wait until tomorrow to catch up on all the sports scores but can get them directly after the game. Another advertisement that you see quite often is for ABC sports. Since this is who ESPN is owned by, ABC gets free advertising for their sports programs. A lot of these have to do with NASCAR racing or Golf. As we talked about in class this is a perfect example of vertical integration.
I also do see a lot of local advertisements on ESPN which is made possible by the local cable carriers. Since ESPN is such an expensive subscription for the local cable carriers, there is a good possibility that an agreement is made to allow for so many local commercials. ESPN uses the programming strategy of habit formation by airing almost the same programs during the same time everyday. The only time this really changes is in the evenings, with only a two to three hour difference in programs before they return to what is always on at that given time.
Even though they have this slight variation in programming, during the baseball season they still have a baseball game on three to four nights a week. ESPN uses the programming strategy of compatibility principle by airing their number one program many times during the day to allow for people with different schedules to be able and watch it. This does not vary and the audience becomes accustomed to Sportscenter being on at that time and therefore it becomes compatible to their everyday life.
They use the programming strategies of block scheduling and audience flow without much difficulty because every show has to do with sports or what appeals to their niche market. ESPN does use block scheduling during the evenings with programs that will prelude to their baseball game that is to be aired during the primetime of that evening and follow that up with a program that recaps what has happened in all the baseball games during that evening. So Baseball Tonight will be a setup program, the game of the evening will be the tent pole, and Sportscenter will be the hammock or recap to settle the evening.