Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ESPN's East Coast Bias

ESPN has an East Coast Bias. Boo-freak'-hoo. Wanna know why:

Last season, Red Sox-Yankees drew ESPN's three highest game ratings — a Mets-Yankees game was fourth. Vince Doria, ESPN senior vice president, notes the Yankees and Red Sox outrate West Coast teams even in West Coast TV markets: "It's not a question of bias. It's trying to discern what most of our viewers are interested in."
So bash the network, MLB on XM, whatever you listen to.... but know there's a reason for the relentless ECB: RATINGS. And ratings = MONEY. And you know what it's all about, dontchya?


Bill said...

Isn't there a just a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing there, though? If the regular ESPN viewers (mostly, I gather from the overwhelming tenor of its coverage, NFL and/or NASCAR fans) who aren't innately huge baseball fans are going to watch a baseball game, it's likely to be a game featuring players and teams those viewers have heard something about. If all ESPN ever talks about is the Red Sox and Yankees, then those viewers are going to tend toward games featuring the Red Sox and/or (preferably and) the Yankees.

I'm not trying to argue that the Yankees and Red Sox don't naturally generate more interest than most or all other teams; they obviously do. But I do think ESPN exacerbates the disparity by disproportionately playing up the Red Sox and Yankees on SportsCenter and everywhere else--more of a focus on the interesting stories going on elsewhere would lead to (at least comparatively) better ratings for non-East Coast games.

There's always this kind of distortion (though perhaps only a slight distortion), I think, when the source of the market research actually creates [a huge portion of] the market. If ESPN has the power to more or less dictate what people watch (and I think it largely does), ESPN's results showing that people actually watch what ESPN tells them to aren't all that interesting or surprising.

Chuck in Toronto said...

And while your map was entitled "America ..." it could have as easily have been "MLB ..." -- i.e. no indication of anything north of the border. My poor BJ's toiling in obscurity!

Jason @ IIATMS said...

Chuck, you would LOVE this picture:


Cory said...

I saw the Rockies vs. the Pirates on MLB network the other day. That would never happen on ESPN. Right now the Mets and Giants are on. All season long it's either been Mets, Red Sox, Yankees, and then a Cubs rivalry game, not Cubs vs. Rockies or something like that.

It's not just the games they show, it's also how much they talk about them during highlights and how much they analyze the teams they are biased towards.

Hypothetical Example

They'll show a 20 second clip of what happened in the White Sox vs. Indians game and then show a 2 minute review of the Yankees vs. Royals including a clip of a fan holding a A-Rod poster and doing a stupid dance. And then after the review they'll analyze what the Yankees did right or wrong.

Yeah it's about money, but ESPN seems to have left the "showing what they think their audience wants to see" zone and has entered the "telling their audience what they should want to see" zone.