ESPN is in the height of its NBA coverage as the NBA Finals are slated to begin next week, but the network and its parent company Disney (DIS) – Get Free Report already in the middle of a turbulent period — is facing criticism on its coverage of the league.
Fans are pointing out that the sports network is focusing on generating viewership and clicks by focusing on trendy topics and opinion stories rather than in-depth sports journalism.
This has been heightened all the more in the recently concluded Western Conference Finals series between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers in a four-game sweep, clinching the franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals berth.
But fans and league pundits are claiming that the network has focused more on LeBron James and the Lakers rather than the triumphant Nuggets. Twitter user @velodus even pointed out that the network showed very little of the Nuggets’ postgame celebration — instead pointing the camera towards a dejected James.
NBA podcaster Dane Moore tweeted that he believes it’s “sad” that ESPN cannot “figure out what type of media company they want to be.” His tweet was in response to a photo of from ESPN’s NBA account showing Lakers head coach Darvin Ham’s clipboard edited with the phrase “Nuggets in Four.”
Even JJ Redick, an ESPN analyst and 15-year NBA veteran, was critical of the lack of coverage about the Nuggets — not necessarily just ESPN — and expressed it on ESPN’s “First Take” on Tuesday morning.
“The fact that people are now being like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize Nikola Jokic was good.’ Let’s put him on TV more! Let’s talk about him more!” Redick said about the two-time MVP.
However, from a business standpoint, the moves are working for ESPN at least from a TV ratings standpoint.
ESPN hit ratings records on television during the first two rounds of the NBA Playoffs — which is important as the network enters its negotiations on a new media rights deal with the league. The current deal expires after the 2024-25 NBA season.