The price of be­com­ing po­lit­i­cal

Sports and entertainment chan­nels that push a lib­eral agenda lose view­ers

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Kelly Rid­dell

It was a bruis­ing po­lit­i­cal sea­son. My Face­book page be­came clut­tered with my friends’ civic-ori­ented rants — in­stead of their chil­dren’s birthdays and other cel­e­bra­tions — on­line egg-trolls at­tacked by Twit­ter feed, and be­tween writ­ing daily col­umns tack­ling Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cor­rup­tion, or de­fend­ing Don­ald Trump’s ac­tions, I was po­lit­i­cally ex­hausted.

To de­com­press, late at night, after ev­ery­one was to bed, I’d flip on NBC’s Bravo — to watch the petty drama, glitz, heels, and de­signer duds on its “Real Housewives” se­ries. I watch them all — which­ever city was on (and they’re on all the time).

You can judge, the show is a bit trashy. But I don’t care — be­cause never once did any­one of my housewives talk about Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clin­ton, or any of the ups and downs of the po­lit­i­cal sea­son. They didn’t judge.

The big­gest drama in Bev­erly Hills was when a house­wife ad­mit­ted to shop­ping at dis­counter TJ Maxx for her purses — and well — they were ugly.

Mind­less entertainment.

If my hus­band were only so lucky.

His po­lit­i­cal detox chan­nel was ESPN

— un­til its com­men­ta­tors started dis­cussing more than the daily sports vine. Not only was the Seat­tle Sea­hawks on its menu, but so were Black Lives Mat­ter, LGBTQ rights, and pres­i­den­tial picks.

He tuned out this year, and he wasn’t the only one.

ESPN has lost 1.18 mil­lion sub­scribers in the last two months alone, ac­cord­ing to Nielsen. In com­par­i­son, the Golf Chan­nel added 2.26 mil­lion sub­scribers even though it’s the be­gin­ning of the U.S. PGA Tour sea­son and the Euro­pean and LPGA Tours had their fi­nal tour­na­ments.

In fis­cal 2016, ESPN lost 2 mil­lion view­ers to­tal, with 90 mil­lion house­holds sign­ing up for its pro­gram­ming, com­pared to nearly 100 mil­lion in 2013. It blames cord-cut­ting for the losses, but not ev­ery­one is con­vinced.

In Novem­ber, Jim Brady, the chan­nel’s pub­lic edi­tor, ac­knowl­edged some of the sub­scriber losses could be at­trib­uted to the chan­nel ded­i­cat­ing much of its pro­gram­ming to the pres­i­den­tial con­test.

“In­ter­nally, there’s a feel­ing among many staffers — both lib­eral and con­ser­va­tive — that the com­pany’s per­ceived move left­ward has had a sti­fling ef­fect on dis­course in­side the com­pany and has af­fected its pub­lic-fac­ing prod­ucts,” Mr. Brady wrote on Nov. 27. “Con­sumers have sensed that same left­ward move­ment, alien­at­ing some.”

Well, yeah.

Mr. Brady then went on to de­fend the com­pany, say­ing ESPN aims to be tol­er­ant and di­verse — and that’s the rea­son it gave Cait­lyn Jen­ner the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, and was the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind its de­ci­sion to move its ESPY Celebrity Golf Clas­sic from Mr. Trump’s Trump Na­tional Golf Club to an­other course. And blah, blah, blah, blah.

None of it mat­ters, in busi­ness, only the bot­tom line does. And the bot­tom line isn’t look­ing so good for ESPN.

Its par­ent-com­pany Dis­ney had a rare earn­ings stum­ble in the fourth-quar­ter, with its over­all profit hurt by a 13 per­cent drop in ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue from ESPN, its main ca­ble money-maker. The chan­nel has been a drag on Dis­ney all year.

The NFL didn’t help. It too is hem­or­rhag­ing view­ers and money after al­low­ing its play­ers to take a knee dur­ing the na­tional an­them in sol­i­dar­ity with the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment. Ac­cord­ing to a Ras­mussen sur­vey done in Oc­to­ber, nearly one-third of Amer­i­cans chose to boycott the NFL this year be­cause of the po­lit­i­cal brouhaha.

Not only has ESPN and the NFL will­fully en­tered into the po­lit­i­cal fray, so did An­heuser-Busch InBev — to the same detri­men­tal re­sults.

After the beer com­pany aired an ad­ver­tise­ment fea­tur­ing co­me­di­ans Amy Schumer and Seth Ro­gen this Oc­to­ber that was preachy, un­funny, and po­lit­i­cal, Bud Light sales were de­stroyed. The ad fea­tured the duo form­ing their own po­lit­i­cal party that pushed a lib­eral agenda. How fun. The ad was quickly axed. So what’s the les­son here?

If you’re in the entertainment busi­ness, per­haps it’s best not to of­fend the 44 per­cent of the coun­try, which ac­cord­ing to Gallup, is Repub­li­can or leans Repub­li­can. Or maybe just lay-off Mr. Trump’s 60 mil­lion vot­ers with your po­lit­i­cal rants.

Just give us sports, beer — and for me — be­guil­ing man­sions and fancy hair­dos, all un­in­ter­rupted by pol­i­tics.

At least Bravo gets it. Com­cast’s ca­ble net­works — which in­cludes the chan­nel — has had a 4.3 per­cent rev­enue growth this year. That ex­cludes its Olympic cov­er­age, which put it at a whop­ping 10 per­cent.

Go Housewives.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HUNTER

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