Last week, ESPN laid off 100 employees, including several well-known SportsCenter anchors and popular writers. This kicked off a round of dire proclamations that ESPN is “dying” and even that that its business is “collapsing,” in part, some say, because of the leftward tilt of its on-screen talent.
Some of this hyperbole stems from the modern journalistic convention to announce the end of any industry, company, or product that has arguably peaked and is in stasis or decline. By this measure, driving has died, clothes are dying, soda has been dead for a decade—even though tens of millions of cars and billions of soda cans are sold each year in the U.S. and there is no epidemic of public nudity.
The less hyperbolic story is that, over the last decade, ESPN built perhaps the most profitable business in media, and the future of its business will likely exist somewhere beneath that superlative. But as long as Americans enjoy sports—and as long as individual sports leagues see a financial benefit in selling access to an entertainment company rather than selling straight to consumers—there is every reason to expect ESPN will continue to be an extremely valuable network.