Friday, August 31, 2007

ESPN Finally Abandons Sinking Scripted-TV Ship


Hot on the heels of the critically-skewered and publicly-ignored series, "The Bronx Is Burning" (more like, "The Fans Are Yawning"), ESPN is finally throwing in the towel on ESPN Original Entertainment, saving sports fans from having to muddle through any more poker-themed "dramatic" series (Exhibit 1: Michael Madsen, sleepwalking through "Tilt"), forced promotional product placement tie-ins (Exhibit 2: "Madden Pay Per View"), or bad hairpieces (Exhibit 3: Tom Sizemore, playing Pete Rose in "Hustle").

Now, fans will just have Karl Ravech's hairpiece to admire on Baseball Tonight.

And I'm not even mentioning EOE's classic series, "Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith," or "Bonds on Bonds." Yawners, all.

From the Hollywood Reporter today:

ESPN is taking a timeout from the scripted business....[T]he company will spend more time on its bread and butter sports properties and news-oriented shows while announcing plans to run selected documentaries.

That amounts to a holding pattern in terms of the Hollywood-style development in what used to be called ESPN Original Entertainment, which was responsible for those types of shows and a short-lived daily news program called "ESPN Hollywood." It's a marked shift from the days for former executive vp Mark Shapiro, who sought to broaden the company's appeal to more than just sporting events and scores.

Today, ESPN executives say that sports and strictly sports-related content are what its audience wants. John Skipper, who as executive vp content at ESPN is in charge of content across ESPN's many platforms, said it's not about broadening the audience but instead about giving their current audience more of what they crave."

"I'm a little less interested in the intersection of where entertainment and sports combine," Skipper said.

Way to go, Skip! Now, maybe you can start bringing us fans other things we crave. Like an end to stupid "Who's Now" segments lengthening an already elongated SportsCenter program. And maybe getting a Sunday Night Baseball team that doesn't involve Joe Morgan.

Maybe we can watch programs which focus on, oh, I don't know, sports highlights? Just for starters, that is.