US Viewers Winning, ESPN Moves to Get Less Political


It appears as though ESPN is coming to terms with the fact that as a sports network, it should probably stay out of politics.

The network is reportedly exploring its options to sell FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver’s polling aggregation website.

In a statement, ESPN told the Gannett-owned news blog The Big Lead that while FiveThirtyEight was an asset to ESPN, the network was exploring “a variety of options for the future, and any discussion of exactly what that might look like would be premature.”

The Big Lead cited “a person with knowledge of the news” who said there was a “significant interest” in the data analytics website. Potential options reportedly include a sale to The Atlantic or Disney.

ESPN acquired FiveThirtyEight in 2013, after Silver correctly predicted the 2012 election for the New York Times. However, Silver’s reputation took a serious hit when he predicted that former Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 election.

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The move comes as the network apparently attempts to re-focus on sports and avoid the polarized political environment.

The network has struggled with sluggish ratings and has seen a steady decline in subscribers over the last six years, Business Insider reported.

The network’s choice to involve itself in politics has certainly not improved its chances of success, as in December it laid off more than 500 employees.

The network is learning the hard way that it alienates viewers when it allows itself to become political.

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ESPN senior vice president Kevin Merida acknowledged as much in December when he said that ESPN was a journalistic organization, not a political one, as reported by ESPN Front Row. And it’s a specific kind of journalism, Merida said.

“ESPN’s focus is sports,” he said. “By-and-large, we are not experts on politics, health care policies, terrorism, commerce — that’s not what we do.”

Since the 2016 election, though, ESPN personalities have became embroiled in political topics, which created controversy the network did not need.

“Our audience is not looking for our opinions on the general news of the day,” Merida said.

Better late than never.

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Merida went on to say that the network was learning from its mistakes.

“And believe me, I get it. It can sometimes be difficult to control impulses or ignore trolls, but that’s what we’re called to do for each other,” Merida added.

It is good to see that ESPN does finally “get” that viewers tune in to the network watch sports coverage, not political commentary.

The question remains if it can fully recover from the damage done.

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