ESPN, Google, and Me

Like Deven, I’ve been mostly AWOL on the blog for much of the last several weeks (it’s been an unusually busy travel summer for me), and easing back into the swing of blogging things after a hiatus always requires some delicacy.  There’s a lot going on in the IP and Internet law and policy world; what should I tackle first?

Frank Deford to the rescue.  The retired Sports Illustrated writer offers punditry from time to time on NPR, and he has a throwback delivery and a no-opinions-barred writing style that I’ve always loved.  Today’s topic:  ESPN, the folks who bring us sports and nothing but sports on cable TV, and its growing online information empire.  The American consumer is addicted to sports, and ESPN is more than happy to supply us with our daily dose – and then some.

As I listened to Deford grouse about the monopoly power that ESPN has assembled and is not afraid to wield, one word came quickly to mind, a word that describes an empire of online information to which we, as consumers, are addicted:  Google.

Read Deford’s commentary (or better, listen) and substitute “Google” for “ESPN.”  Make appropriate minor adjustments for other subject matter.

ESPN rules the land, the seas and the firmament of sport, and ESPN sees that it is good. ESPN has multiple channels, a magazine, a radio network, and now it’s starting local Web sites in many cities to compete on that level.

What it covers is so often what it owns the rights to — in almost every major sport. To be sure, other networks share some rights to the various leagues, but only ESPN is a critical mass. ESPN can make you.

For example, it signed a 15-year contract with the Southeastern Conference for more than $2 billion, thereby sending every other conference into a panic mode, fearful that ESPN will make the SEC pre-eminent — America’s conference. It can do that. In no other significant part of American culture does one media entity enjoy such domination.

The one major prize that has eluded ESPN is the Olympics, but NBC only owns rights through 2012, and as sure as Zeus made little gold medals, ESPN will make a huge run at that, too.

Eerie.  Could it be that sport is a metaphor for “real” life?  (As goes ESPN, so Google should go?)  Or is it the other way around? 

I’m just having a little fun, of course; nothing about Google ESPN is as important as what is happening with ESPN Google.