Mystery Solved: Why ESPN Really Ditched Twitter

Eight days ago, I predicted that pro athletes would soon be banned from taking part in Twitter. And thanks to more than one Twitter-related reprimand during the first week of NFL training camp, some sort of formal embargo appears to be right around the corner.

George Bodenheimer - The Man Who Killed Twitter At ESPN

(’Guys, would you be cool with putting a washing machine on the desk?’)

But the draconian policy ESPN recently dropped on its staff, forbidding them all from Tweeting anything sports-related, surprised even the cynic in me.

But then I remembered 1998.

It was in 1998 that George Bodenheimer, a career ESPN ad sales guy, began overseeing all  programming at Bristol. Not coincidentally, Disney gave Bodenheimer the reins after Fox Sports launched a rival national sports network that same year - the first (and only) true competition ever lodged against ESPN.

Previously, ESPN had exploded in popularity under the guidance of Steve Bornstein, whose background was in programming. So why did Bodenheimer suddenly take over from Bornstein, who to that point had steered ESPN to wild success? Disney saw that Fox Sports Net was coming after ESPN’s advertisers, and wanted to have a salesman running the entire operation in order to best protect profits.

If you’ve ever worked in media, you know of the eternal battle between sales and programming. Sales wants to dumb down content to make it a more palatable commodity for advertisers, while programming wants to produce provocative content that will draw viewers/listeners/readers. I worked at innumerable radio and TV stations doing sports over 16 years, and I saw this fight play out at every single one of my stops.

So what does that all have to do with Twitter? A whole lot. Read more…