represents the top-rated program on five major networks ( Nielsen Sports, 2018 ; Norman, 2018 ). The error was, instead, a technical issue causing ESPN’s fantasy-football website and mobile application (app) to crash. This Web- and app-based crash kept fantasy-sport participants from accessing their league
Brody J. Ruihley, Jason Simmons, Andrew C. Billings and Rich Calabrese
Sara Santarossa, Paige Coyne, Sarah J. Woodruff and Craig G. Greenham
ESPN The Magazine’ s The Body Issue is one of the most anticipated annual editions in the sport industry ( Fuller, 2018 ). The Body Issue debuted in 2009 to considerable fanfare and represented an effort by ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) to boost lagging revenues ( Vogan, 2015
Gregory A. Cranmer, Alexander L. Lancaster and Tina M. Harris
The disparity in framing in sport media based on athlete race has historically garnered extensive attention. In the past, the media promoted historical stereotypes of Black athletes that emphasized their physical prowess and diminished their intellectual capacity. However, recent research provides evidence that these traditional frames are changing and that recent media coverage is more racially equitable or even contradicts old patterns. Advancing this critique further, the current study examined novel visual frames (i.e., the emphasis of athleticism, sporting context, and sexualization) of White and Black athletes in ESPN’s The Body Issue. The findings contradict historical patterns of representations of Black athletes through the identification of a shift in the framing patterns for Black male athletes, whereas Black female athletes still face frames that portray them in a stereotypical manner. This study recognizes these tensions while successfully illustrating the importance of examining the intersections of difference for revealing and confronting the unique portrayals of Black female athletes.
Gregory A. Cranmer, Maria Brann and Nicholas D. Bowman
Previous studies have suggested that media reify frames that subtly enforce sex differences in a manner that detracts from women athletes’ athleticism. This phenomenon is referred to as ambivalence. To analyze ambivalence, this study introduces a theoretically and empirically supported coding scheme that was used to conduct a quantitative frame analysis of 157 images featured in ESPN’s The Body Issue. These images were coded for frames that de-emphasize athleticism, sexualize athletes, or deny a sporting context. Results suggest that athlete sex is associated with de-emphasized athleticism and sexualized frames, and sport gender is associated with context frames. Results also support longitudinal trends in The Body Issue series, which suggest that the series has become more sexualized and removed from a sports context but has decreased the use of frames that de-emphasize athleticism. In general, The Body Issue continues to reinforce established media trends that trivialize female athletes, despite claiming to do the opposite.
Daniel A. Gruber
This article presents a case study of the developments in media gatekeeping in the last 10 years, focusing on the launch of the Tennis Channel and the ascendance of ESPN as the major network for professional tennis in the United States. The U.S. broadcast networks NBC and CBS have ceded the exclusive television rights for 2 of the Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon, U.S. Open) to ESPN for the first time in over 40 years. Meanwhile, the Tennis Channel, despite its independence from the media conglomerates, has carved out a niche for fans with its extensive global coverage of tournaments and for advertisers with its lucrative audience demographics. This change in dominance after the broadcast networks reigned for over 4 decades underscores the globalization of the sport and the abundance of early-round tournament matches available to fans. Organizational theories are used to analyze what has occurred and to predict what will happen next for tennis media gatekeeping in the United States.
This article uses a case-study approach to develop an understanding of how framing on game telecasts can increase the brand equity of sports venues. In 2014, ESPN ranked the NHL’s New York Islanders last in “stadium experience” among all 122 teams in the 4 major North American sports leagues. Given the Islanders’ looming relocation, the 2014–15 NHL season afforded the last opportunity to consider how telecasts would portray the team’s arena, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island. Based on a textual analysis of Islanders telecasts, 2 frames emerged: atmosphere (loud cheering and tributes to veterans) and nostalgia (famous moments and players from the arena’s history). Teams that play in poorly regarded venues can encourage broadcasters to employ frames such as atmosphere and nostalgia to increase attendance and sales of venue-related merchandise.
Despite its popularity, pervasiveness, and value, ESPN’s programming is not typically recognized as sophisticated or artful. To give its brand identity greater prestige within the increasingly competitive world of cable sports television, in 2008 ESPN created ESPN Films, a subsidiary film production unit that specializes in documentaries. ESPN Films’ most ambitious project thus far is 30 for 30 (2009–2010), a series of 30 documentaries made by 30 commissioned filmmakers to celebrate ESPN’s 30th anniversary. ESPN markets 30 for 30 through emphasizing three primary qualities that distinguish the series, and, by extension, ESPN, from other sports television: the use of the documentary form, the productions’ status as films, and the commissioned filmmakers’ position as renowned artists. This essay uses ESPN Films and 30 for 30 to examine ESPN’s efforts to add refinement to its institutional identity and to illustrate the economic and industrial functions this shift in cultural status serves.
David Kraft has been with ESPN’s online operation since 1996, when it was known as ESPNetSportsZone. That year, Kraft helped design ESPN’s online coverage of the bombing at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. For 4 years he has headed the news operation at espn.com and since 2009 has also managed the copy desk. Prior to joining ESPN, Kraft spent 6 years as the managing editor of Volleyball magazine, immediately preceded by 3 years as a newspaper reporter at the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune.
Benjamin Burroughs and Travis Vogan
The growing body of scholarship on sport scandals focuses on how media cover these incidents, how scandalized parties disrupt expectations and repair their images, and the circumstances under which punishment and forgiveness are issued. This article uses Deadspin, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN’s coverage of the 2013 Manti Te’o hoax to suggest that sport scandals also compose instruments through which media outlets fashion their brands, critique competitors, and compete for market share. It demonstrates how these outlets used the Te’o incident to negotiate their positions in the sport-media industry and, more broadly, how sport scandals and coverage of them can reshape that increasingly digital industry’s established hierarchies.
Xavier Ramon, Andrew C. Billings and José Luis Rojas-Torrijos
ESPN, the self-proclaimed (yet rarely disputed) “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” has long realized it was much more than an entertainment company. Acknowledging that with great power comes great responsibility, in 2005 ESPN assigned the title of first “Ombudsman” to George Solomon, who functioned much