A top ESPN executive has admitted that the network’s move toward politics may have been poison to its ratings.
Norby Williamson told the Washington Post in an interview earlier this week that the network has since reversed course on that focus, helping goose its ratings.
Still, Williamson told the WaPo that the politics on the network’s flagship SportsCenter damaged ratings. .
I think we miscalculated a little bit,” Williamson said. “The perception became that you could just roll a talent out there and it doesn’t matter what he or she is saying — that the content didn’t matter. I just never believed that.”
Hosts Jemele Hill and Michael Smith were the focus of the political turn. Both have since left the network. Since their departures, the 6 PM SportsCenter has seen “eight straight months of growth,” according to the WaPo. The ratings took an immediate turn upward when the two were gone.
ESPN had denied that its drift into politics was damaging its ratings. That tone changed earlier this year when CEO Bob Iger said conversations with Jim Pitaro saw both agree it was time for a change.