I’ve been reading “Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World of ESPN”, and I’ve found it to be an interesting book, with some caveats.
The book is for insiders, as much of it focuses on the management who are invisible to viewers. Who made what decision and why is a heavy emphasis, so those looking for crazy Chris Berman stories will have to suffer through long stretches of dealmaking between anecdotes.
With a background in media and business (and as a very occasional freelancer for ESPN) I’ve picked up interesting bits all the way through. One is inescapable: ESPN is very good at making money on every project, which is something we can all learn from. Develop multiple revenue streams, price events properly, control costs, and market like crazy.
Example: The NBA subsidizes coverage of WNBA games because there is no viewer interest in them, thus no advertising interest. On the flip side, NCAA Women’s basketball pays its way through advertising, because there is an audience, thus ads can be sold. Understand what your audience wants and doesn’t want. Make everything work.
It also helps to have operations in a cheap town like Bristol, CT, where you can pay your staff less and they have fewer opportunities to jump to another job.
Doing everything you can to produce a quality product goes a long way, too.
Even a billion dollar operation like ESPN relies on the basics.