Former Observer sportswriter Jason Whitlock: Cord-cutting hurts ESPN, but so does its politics

Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock says cord-cutting and politics have much to do with ESPN’s sagging ratings. Whitlock is a former ESPN employee.
Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock says cord-cutting and politics have much to do with ESPN’s sagging ratings. Whitlock is a former ESPN employee.

Former Charlotte Observer sportswriter Jason Whitlock says that, yes, cord-cutting is to blame for heavy losses in ESPN viewership. But Whitlock, a former ESPN employee now working at Fox Sports 1, also says the network’s politics are part of the blame.

According to Nielsen data, ESPN has lost more than 11 million subscribers in the past five years.

Whitlock -- who is co-host of FS1’s “Speak For Yourself” sports talk show with Colin Cowherd and Jason McIntyre -- appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on the Fox News Network Thursday. Carlson said ESPN was still the most powerful brand in sports, but he questioned whether ESPN was pushing politics too much.

“I think you’ve asked the right question,” Whitlock answered. “I think cord-cutting has a lot to do with their subscriber and the viewership loss. But the animosity and some of the viewership loss, I do think is a direct result of their lurch to the left (politically), and injecting progressive victimology into the sports conversation.

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“If you really understand sports culture, and all the values taught in sports, from Little League, Pee Wee, on, you’re never a victim. There are never any excuses that are accepted. Every coach teaches every play from 5 years old on to 45 years old, we don’t tolerate excuses, we don’t tolerate victimology, and now so much of the conversation by the sports media, ESPN being the leader of this, is just filled with so-and-so is a victim, Colin Kaepernick’s a victim, everybody’s a victim. It’s turning traditional sports fans off.”

Whitlock said he has written and talked often about what he feels is a change in the sports landscape.

“I think, again, so much of the media has moved left,” Whitlock said. “It applies to ESPN, but it also applies to all the media. Silicon Valley, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram is now in control of the mainstream media. Everyone is catering all of their content to Silicon Valley and San Francisco values.

“That’s far different than the old media which catered everything to New York traditional liberal values. The values in San Francisco, a bit more revolutionary, a bit more progressive, than a traditional New York-based media.”

It's been more than two years since Hilton Head Island resident Steve Baer and his wife Sandy decided to stop paying for television and revert to receiving their channels the old fashion way - over the air. In order to get a good signal the antenn