Nearly a month after she tweeted that Donald Trump is a white supremacist, ESPN SportsCenter co-host Jemele Hill was suspended for two weeks. The network claimed the suspension was not for Hill’s earlier comment but for a second violation of the company’s social media guidelines.
But even that claim failed to acknowledge the real reason for Hill’s “timeout,” which was based on color. No, not the color of her skin but the color of what she carried in her wallet.
In a statement Monday, the company said Hill “… previously acknowledged letting her colleagues and company down with an impulsive tweet. In the aftermath, all employees were reminded of how individual tweets may reflect negatively on ESPN and that such actions would have consequences. Hence this decision.”
Hill tweeted Sunday that fans who disagree with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said players who disrespect the flag will not play for his team, should boycott the team’s advertisers.
Having thirty-five years of my pre-reporting career in the media business, two of them working for ESPN head John Skipper prior to his move to the sports network, I am here to tell you that the color green commands — and receives — more respect than all the other colors combined.
Merely suggesting that an advertiser boycott an NFL team is potentially toxic for ESPN’s profits. Most of the same advertisers who are spending tens of thousands or even millions of dollars with the Dallas Cowboys are spending tens of millions of dollars with ESPN. In other words, she was calling for the boycott of the same advertisers who pay her salary.
But it’s more than just advertising. NFL football is a key component of ESPN’s subscriber strategy. According to sources, the network makes about $300 million in advertising fees during the professional football season. Without the NFL, ESPN loses its competitive edge and becomes just another sports network broadcasting the international tiddlywinks championship at three a.m.
Every cable and satellite system that carries ESPN pays the network, which now charges $7.21 per subscriber. It is by far the most expensive cable network and based on its 88 million subscribers takes in about $635 million in revenue. In contrast, Fox Sports One, which is carrying the MLB divisional series, receives about $1.86 per subscriber.
The only reason why the cable or satellite provider will pony up that $5.35 difference is NFL football.
By suggesting a boycott of the Dallas Cowboys, Jemele Hill wasn’t just costing ESPN advertisers money but also hurting the cash flow of Jerry Jones, arguably the most powerful NFL owner.
In other words, gone unpunished, Jamele Hill could have put a big hurt on the ESPN bottom line, something that would upset Disney shareholders greatly. Perhaps next time Hill should think about how her company makes money before tweeting.
Cross posted at The Lid