So did you know skating was back on ESPN this week?
Yup, there it was. World Championship coverage from 4 months ago, on ESPN 2, on Monday night, running up against MLB All-Star activities on their primary channel. Counterprogramming, it’s called—snag the primarily female viewership when it’s not as likely they might be tuning in to the main event. I think they’ve run Four Continents against the Super Bowl for the past few years on the exact same principle.
It makes me wonder what they’ll do once ESPN’s rights to figure skating coverage run out, presumably sometime this fall. There’s been a lot of criticism of ESPN’s use (and some say abuse) of the rights over this past decade. Events started too late, they weren’t consistently programmed, they were constantly pre-empted for no good reason… I’ve even interviewed TV producers (from other networks, of course) that believe ESPN effectively “ruined the sport” with their slipshod approach.
But to be fair, they’ve likely played fast and loose with a number of other sports—meaning, anything that isn’t football, baseball, or basketball. After all, they’ve got an awful lot of time to fill. And you can only rerun SportsCenter oh, maybe 12 or 13 times a day, right?
It’s with those “other sports”, I guess, that they’ll fill the sizable void once they don’t have skating to kick around anymore. Allow my adoration for David Letterman to kick in for a few minutes, won’t you, as I offer up MY TOP 5 NEW COUNTERPROGRAMMING OFFERINGS AT ESPN:
5) Celebrity Hairstyling. Hey, after watching the latest Maria Menunos shampoo ad a few times, I’m convinced—getting full-bodied curls is an endurance sport!
4) Stiletto Track & Field. With all the publicity the annual high-heel 150-yard dash brings nowadays, can a full-fledged event be far behind? (Note: watch out for puncture marks on that big pad they land on after the high jump. Yikes!)
3) Women’s Basketball. Because it’s treated like a third-class sport right now... might as well bump it up to second-class.
2) Beefcake Staredown. Just put a new photo of a hot guy up on the screen every 30 seconds. No commentary, no commercials… maybe just some Weather Channel-esque light jazz in the background. So easy!
And #1… Chick Flick Sports Central. Because if the Golf Channel can still find reasons to run Caddyshack after 28 years, ESPN2 should have no problem with a 30th anniversary edition of Ice Castles.
The Clip of the Day pays homage to ESPN’s best counterprogramming effort with Mao Asada’s 2008 performance at 4CC.