Morgan Watches Steven Universe: Season 0

As I said way back when I started Da Blog eleven and a half years ago (!), I’ve always fancied myself as someone who doesn’t jump on the hot new fad all the time, and despite spending way too much time on TV Tropes and spending plenty of time in contact with various fandoms, I’ve usually found it pretty easy to resist jumping on whatever show or other thing is the hot new thing on the Internet, with my usual reaction being an eyeroll, shaking my head, and at best observing it from a distance. Homestuck was the main exception, because at the time it was taking over cons across the nation I fancied myself a webcomic reviewer, specifically one of “popular” webcomics, and I sure as hell couldn’t let Homestuck go unreviewed (and as much of a reason as any that I kept reading Homestuck was that no one else in the “webcomic blogosphere” was covering it on a regular basis, leaving it up to me to give it the kind of deep analysis other story-based webcomics got, which now seems kind of laughable in retrospect considering the directions Homestuck fandom started going in after I started reading it). But somehow, someway, my involvement with Homestuck has gotten me to start watching Steven Universe.

Near as I can tell, this is how it happened: As I obliquely referred to in my post on Homestuck‘s ending, I’ve found myself following numerous “liveblogs” of Homestuck that allow me to relive it vicariously through people reading it for the first time. The sizable audience crossover between Homestuck and SU and general monolithic presence of SU on Tumblr meant that there were of course several SU references to be found that I wouldn’t get, and on occasion, the Tumblr dashboard I only set up to send messages to liveblogs would recommend SU liveblogs to me, which I only looked at for just long enough to determine that they weren’t HS liveblogs. But then I started following one liveblog in particular that was particularly heavy on the SU references and in fact was created by someone who served as screener for the Loreweaver Universe liveblog (which actually has its own TV Tropes page). At some point they started liveblogging new episodes of SU as they came out as well, which meant interrupting the HS liveblog, and while at first I just stayed away during SU liveblogs and only took enough interest to know when things would be getting back to HS, eventually I ended up reading enough of it to become engrossed enough in what was going on to read and follow along, even if only by proxy. Then earlier this month the show aired two episodes that culminated in a major revelation that took several days to fully digest, and around the same time I discovered Loreweaver’s episode rating list that tied right into my weakness for order and lists, one thing led to another, and pretty soon I’d read Loreweaver’s liveblogs of his top 60 episodes and numerous others besides (not to mention most of the show’s TV Tropes pages), leaving me with enough detailed knowledge of the show that I figured I might as well be able to say I’ve actually watched the darn thing.

Honestly, this keeps happening. “Blogs” still felt as much of a buzzword as anything else when I started one, my more general disdain for social media didn’t stop me from jumping on Twitter, I’ve already talked about Homestuck, and there’s probably others besides where I witnessed their popularity from afar, considered myself “too cool” for them, and ended up jumping on board anyway. And so often when I jump on a new work of fiction with an established fanbase I always end up regretting not jumping on board earlier and been part of it through what I would consider its peak, as was the case with just about every webcomic I kept reading after I reviewed them – even Homestuck, for which I was around when it broke the Internet, I still felt like I jumped on board while it was in the later stages of its peak. One of these days I want to be the hipster that can say I was into it before it was cool. I don’t know if that’ll ever actually happen – normally TV shows aren’t the sort of thing I can easily commit to watching (not least of the reasons why being that that’s time I’d rather spend working on more productive blog posts) and I don’t review webcomics anymore – but if the opportunity presents itself I’m not going to hesitate to jump on board. I’m tired of considering myself “too cool” for anything anymore. If something’s all the rage on the Internet for smart reasons (not because it’s a stupid meme), I’m not going to be caught joining the party late again.

As alluded to earlier, because the whole reason I’m doing this is because I already know just about everything, I’m not exactly coming into this blind. People looking for unadulterated reactions are probably going to be disappointed, but I have tried (and probably failed) to clear my head enough before starting that at least some reactions are going to be genuine and I can at least get a sense of what it would be like watching without knowing what’s to come (after all, my original read-through of Order of the Stick was wildly out of order). To try and get through the first four seasons over the course of the one-month free trial Hulu offers, I planned to watch four or five episodes a night, though at this point things may become more free-form as watching episodes has proven to take substantially longer than I originally expected. I originally wanted to use a hashtag to denote my live thoughts as I’m watching on Twitter, but I ended up starting a separate account, @MorganWatchesSU, which you can follow for my thoughts as I watch each episode. This summary post was originally intended to be a compilation of my tweets as I was watching, but I quickly proved to have so much to say that any such post, even if limited to the “highlights” and using the ability to display parent tweets in embedded tweets to cut down on size, would be too long for comfort. Instead these summary posts will be more for broader analysis of each season. As we go along and the show goes further into Cerebus Syndrome, I may feel moved to write detailed analysis posts after selected episodes (the first of which may come after my very next episode as soon as Monday), not dissimilar to what I used to write for webcomics, and for those I’ll try to write from the perspective of someone who’s only up to that episode. I also have a few more ideas for projects adjacent to the show that I may end up instituting as well. All posts on these topics, as well as links to my tweet chains for each episode (that I don’t do a deeper analysis post for), will be available on this page.

The first season is twice the length of the other seasons with a midseason finale that serves as the starting point for the overarching plot and which, apparently, the creators have called the “true” start to the show. When split, they seem to usually be called season 1a and 1b, but given the first half’s status as a prelude to the “true” show, I’m referring to that half as season 0.

And unfortunately, that prelude status also means I don’t really feel like I can fairly assess it.

(Note: I’m not going to bother introducing the premise of the series or a lot of the background knowledge of what happens in the first 22 episodes or so, something I wouldn’t do for a webcomic review. If you don’t know any of that yourself, click the read-more at your own risk. If you feel the need to, read the character analysis at the bottom first.)

Read moreMorgan Watches Steven Universe: Season 0

The evolution of what I would post this month

A week or two ago, I thought I would FINALLY get back to writing about the problems with our politics that gave rise to Donald Trump and the changes that would need to be made to fix them.

That ended up getting sidetracked in favor of another project that I considered making my post for the month, involving dipping back into the world of sports TV graphics from a hypothetical perspective.

But that ended up getting sidetracked for long enough that I considered just writing a post expounding on that hypothetical perspective, even writing two paragraphs of it tonight, but then I realized that post would be best written after another post that I would want to post if and when the Fox-Disney semi-merger got further along.

I will say this: I’ve been tasked with finding another avenue for my writing that might actually pay something before my birthday, and while I haven’t actually put any work into doing so, hopefully by this time next month I’ll have actually found something, and more to the point, something I can write about for such a forum that would actually engage me, because heaven knows I’ve been kind of lacking for such a topic that would engage me in writing for this site (which has arguably been part of the reason I’ve been so absent outside football season).

Can we get a do-over on this blog-day?

The first post in the history of Da Blog, written on this date eleven years ago, was written while cowering in a bus shelter. This post is being written under the overhang outside a library. To be sure, this is only because my computer won’t play nice with my mom’s Internet connection for some reason, and I wasn’t able to get to the library before it closed. But it is, in a way, a fitting way to end what might be the most disappointing year in the history of Da Blog.

Very little has changed since my last blog-day post. I spent the entire year following the inauguration much the same way I spent most of the latter half of 2016: lamenting that I couldn’t bring myself to work on the sorts of posts I had planned. This is the 36th post since my last blog-day post, and I actually think that might be a record low that holds up, between my policy of putting up at least one post a month and the Flex Schedule Watch posts towards the end of the year. I did get out some of the posts I wanted to get out about what’s gone wrong with our politics, but they ground to a halt after the inauguration – not because of the madness the Trump regime actually turned out to be, though it is making it that much harder to continue the series, but because the post I was working on at the time, the post I’d been planning since 2008, was made far more difficult and complicated by the election. Honestly I’ve been mentally transitioning to thinking about the projects I want to work on once I’m done with this series, but I keep telling myself I need to finish the series (much of the work on which is actually pretty close to done), but in order to finish the series I need to have some sort of post re-introducing it. Which is something I actually tried to do, but which didn’t end up bearing out in the form of getting any actual posts written before enough time passed to make it not-timely again.

I actually have some optimism that this coming year won’t be quite so much a lost year as the last year was. I’ve actually started the process of taking steps to actually improve my work habits and actually get some of the stuff I want to get done done. The chintziness of how Mom’s connection works with my computer might actually work in my favor on this front; without the distractions from the rest of the Internet I might actually be able to put the finishing touches on one of my posts sufficiently to get it ready to post in the new year, and the work on that might put me enough in the mood that it can help with working on the other posts. Still, I wouldn’t expect any new posts on Da Blog after this until after the new year.

I may also move to a new host at some point in the new year. Some of you may have noticed that Da Blog went down at several points in the latter half of the year. This is because I moved to only renewing my hosting on a monthly basis and had it recommended to me to find a cheaper hosting option for the long term. That has proven not to be as much of a slam dunk as it was when I first signed up with Hostmonster, in part because of a number of hosts, including Hostmonster, being gobbled up by huge impersonal organizations, making it hard to find a host that would actually be a suitable replacement. I have some ideas, but I would need to discuss them with people and reassess how the landscape may have shifted since I did my original round of research, and in any case having to move everything, including the customization I’ve done to my theme, would be a major hassle.

I’d like to think we can just throw away Year Eleven as a lost year in the history of Da Blog, and I’ll be spending Year Twelve doing most of the things I said I would do in Year Eleven in the last blog-day post and firmly and officially moving on to the next phase of my life. Considering what I’m facing in terms of my financial situation (and the fact that I’m turning 30 in the next year!), I don’t have much choice. But who knows what my mental state will be and what it’ll allow me to do in the next year.

I swear, I’m actually going to write an actual post one of these days!

I know this has been, by far, the least productive year in the history of Da Blog so far, but I think I’m getting close to changing that and actually starting to do work again. I promise I’ll have an actual post on actual constructive topics that aren’t saved for the end of the month (and thus aren’t transparently an attempt to preserve my pattern of having at least one post a month) before it’s time to start up the Flex Schedule Watch again.

In fact I might have one or even two such posts out before the end of the week. I might have gotten them out earlier, but I just finished a whirlwind weekend in Seattle where I was shuttled from one thing to another with little or no free time to actually do any work. I can’t guarantee I won’t go on complete radio silence afterwards, but hopefully that would be to work on larger projects that might actually amount to something, hopefully on the scale of the book or larger. Of course, I haven’t entirely decided what those projects would be, or at least the order of their priority…

Still in a bit of a holding pattern

Not much has changed since the post I had last month. I think I’m basically letting myself have an unannounced vacation, having burned out on my attempt to continue my series of political posts. You can probably see a pattern to this if you look back on the history of Da Blog, especially over the last few years, where I’ll have long stretches, especially over the spring and summer, where I spend all my time on totally frivolous projects.

Every time this happens I feel incredibly guilty about it and about not spending time on the projects I actually consider “productive”, and then I keep working on the frivolous stuff because that’s where my mind is, allowing myself to fall into a complete rut for months on end. But every month I spend on stuff like that is a month I’m not working on stuff that can go on Da Blog or the rest of the web site or that can be released to the world at large, and I’m losing momentum in terms of establishing a name for myself in the wider world, and it feels like this is happening more and more recently (though that may be related to my not having school, living with my dad, and not feeling pressure to get a real job). To be honest, I feel that’s a reason why the book isn’t as timely as I’d hoped or quite up to how I’d envisioned it when I started. I shouldn’t be feeling old at just short of 29, but from what I’ve read I’ve already passed the age where the brain hits its peak and stops growing. Have I locked in my poor work habits for all time, and put myself in a situation where they’re enabled? Is there even a way to keep me focused on “productive” projects that I would be receptive to?

This isn’t really because of the election and the ongoing Age of Trump, aside from that being the impetus for my political series, but it doesn’t help. Part of the problem is that ever since the election, I can’t help but think we’re witnessing the slow-motion end of the world and self-destruction of civilization; if Trump doesn’t start a nuclear war because someone insulted him on Twitter, the forces behind his election and other populist movements around the globe will cause civilization to come to a halt, with or without all-out war, and if they don’t do it on their own global warming will do it for them. (That middle option might be the best-case scenario if it results in a drastic drop in emissions, but that wouldn’t be enough to prevent catastrophic changes.) Against this backdrop, as I said earlier, writing about anything else, certainly anything that attempts to shape what the future might be (and thus presumes its existence), seems frivolous; even the political series, which I had hoped to complete before the election, seems pointless. What good is anything in the face of humanity’s apparent and potentially inescapable self-destruction? It’s a recipe for paralysis and apathy; even trying to write recommendations for how to fix the problem seems like casting stones to the wind at this point, doomed to go down in history as a record of what should have been done rather than an impetus to actually do it while there was still time to make a difference (which feels like the story of my life since launching Da Blog). I do have a few ideas for projects I can try to make meaning out of even in this context, even aside from the political series, but they’d take a long time to get going and I haven’t been working on any of them.

So yeah, this is one of those periods where I descend into a tailspin of depression over my inability to get actual work done and end up getting even less work done as a result. I don’t know when I’m going to climb out of it or what I’ll come out of it with. Hopefully at least next month I’ll have more than an exercise in self-pity.

So, How am I Holding Up in the Age of Trump?

I haven’t made any posts since before the inauguration, and you’d probably forgive me if the first week or two of the new administration left me so broken down as unable to say anything. There’s probably some truth to that, but it’s not the whole truth; for example, circumstances outside my control left me unable to update the Pro Football Hall of Fame Watch, which I may have to reassess the criteria for and post with possibly substantial changes in July or August.

I’ve been trying to make progress on the series of political posts I started on the eve of the election, but one post in particular has proved much more involved than I expected, in part because it’s an idea for a post I’ve had going back at least to my first round of political posts in 2008, but the outcome of the recent election has resulted in an example to work with that’s far less straightforward than the 2000 election I was going to work with. Recently I’ve been letting that fall by the wayside in favor of another more frivolous project that may or may not result in new content for the site but which doesn’t make me feel much better for working on it. I was intending for this series of political posts to build up to my proposed changes to the Constitution, but the context now feels very different than it did then.

I did start a new Da Countdown on inauguration day ticking down the remaining days in the Trump administration, assuming he doesn’t suspend elections, but there hasn’t been much else. I actually have an idea for a more philosophical approach to my next political post, but it’s something that would have been better served coming out last week. And the election has inspired a bunch of other ideas for projects, but as was the case all last summer, it’s been hard for me to re-orient myself towards the project I had considered to be a prerequisite for them.

Still, I do hope to keep my “continue my streak of months with a post” posts like this one to a minimum going forward, but I suspect when my next Blog-Day post comes out I’ll once again have a pretty low mark of posts for the year.

A bigly disappointing blog-day.

In certain corners of the Internet, it has long been a meme to talk about how terrible a year 2016 has been. In my case, it has been no exception. In fact, the horribleness of 2016 in the wider world weighs all the more heavily on me, even if for rather irrational, self-centered reasons.

The year started out so well. I published my book and announced it in my last blog-day post, and during the first half of the year I supplemented the book with numerous posts containing content that, for one reason or another, didn’t make it into the book, as well as posts containing my comments on the latest developments from the world of cord-cutting. I also started making plans for how to parlay the book into something that might result in me making some actual money on a regular basis, as well as weighing ideas for my next book.

And then Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, and my productivity ground to a complete halt.

Once Trump had the nomination secure, I decided I had to write a series of posts about what it meant for American democracy and how to pull it back from the abyss. The problem is, history has proven time and time again that it’s a lot harder for me to write political posts than posts on more frivolous topics. That was the case in the lead-up to the 2008 election, it was the case when I attempted to turn my short-lived Sandsday comic into a discussion of global warming, and it was the case with my Occupy Tea Party series, which didn’t go beyond two or three posts on specific topics. In the case of Trump, writing those posts meant diving into the muck of the state of American politics, and doing research on the thinking behind certain elements of the Constitution. It was far easier for me to play games and do other frivolous things all day.

In the end, I didn’t put out the first post in the series until literally the day before the election, and I still haven’t put out the intended second post. In the meantime, from June until the Flex Schedule Watch posts started in October I was once again making only one post a month. This is only the 48th post since my last blog-day post, breaking a record I already hadn’t thought would even be set as low as it was. And after Trump’s election, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that if I had put it out earlier, started the conversation before the election, perhaps a Trump victory might have been avoided as the American people focused on a more productive avenue to reform the system – or even that if I had written all the political posts I had wanted to over the last decade and worked to popularize them, we wouldn’t have come so close to the abyss to start with.

It’s a solemn occasion for another reason: this post marks the 10-year anniversary of Da Blog. It’s been a long time since I made any posts while cowering in a bus stop shelter, but it has not, so far, been the ticket to greatness I’ve hoped it would be. Perhaps this is just my disappointment with the last year talking, but Da Blog has more often than not confronted me with my own lack of work ethic in achieving any of my dreams, something that seems to have actually gotten worse as time has gone on; my posting frequency seemed to fall through the floor after I graduated from college and moved to LA with my dad, when you might expect the opposite to happen. Certainly Da Blog has contained any number of things as it has gone on, from being a home to my sports projects to housing webcomic reviews to my ongoing thoughts on the future of the Internet to covering the sports TV wars to tracking the evolution of the video market. But it has remained little more than a placeholder while I think about working on the projects I really want to, the only one of which that has come to fruition was the book, and that only because of my dad’s pushing and even then taking much longer than it had any right to.

I would like to think the next decade of Da Blog will be more productive than the last decade – that I’ll actually start gaining an audience for my writings and can actually start making an impact in the wider world. But the way this year has gone I’m not even sure civilization as we know it will exist in a decade, and I’m certainly not optimistic that we haven’t just thrown away our last chance to stop global warming from destroying civilization for us. I’ll start Year Eleven sometime after the holidays (and before the inauguration) by finishing up the series on the Constitution, including at least one post I’ve been meaning to write since 2008, and presenting my ideas for how to refresh the Constitution. After that is anyone’s guess, because it feels like it’s impossible to tell what might possibly happen next anymore. I’ve swung back around to weighing ideas for books, and as a result it may well be that going post-light every year may just be the norm from now on, but I also keep having personal projects nagging at the back of my mind to keep me wanting to come back to sports TV ratings. I may also parlay the Constitution series into a broader overview on just how society went wrong and the conflict between it and human nature. Or the pressure to actually make money may move me to start writing for other outlets, no matter how frivolous the topics I’d write about may seem. There are any number of directions I could end up going from here, and I don’t know if I’m going to end up taking any of them.

ANOTHER month without a post?!

This is not the way I should be following up on my book…

I have been active on Twitter, but I haven’t been able to put together enough uninterrupted time to actually write an actual post. It doesn’t help that what I’ve been working myself up to write is an ambitious series of political posts, and those have always worked out well. (You can probably guess what’s prompted it.)

I have started working my way towards some less ambitious posts that will start churning out over the next week or so, so July won’t be as much of a dead zone on here as June was. I could have a post on cord-cutting, and my continued frustration with OTT cable bundles, as soon as tomorrow.

Did I just spend all of March without a post?

Considering I’m trying to sell a book, that’s not necessarily the best thing to happen, is it? I think I needed a period of time to come down from the process of writing the book so I spent much of the month goofing off, and while you might think the oncoming start of the incentive auction process would serve as a trigger for writing more posts, what it actually served as the trigger of was a personal project of mine.

Not to worry. I have several ideas for relevant posts that I hope to bang out over the next few days, both on the incentive auction and plight of broadcast, and on the larger shifts sweeping over the video landscape. Stay tuned.

Does ESPN LIKE the “Competition” from Fox and NBC?

Before I left for Seattle for a week and a half, I had reason to start thinking about the possibility of our household becoming a cord-cutting household, because as we were wrapping up the book my Dad mentioned that he had thought about cutting the cord, and maybe that he should cut the cord, but something was keeping him from pulling the trigger. What immediately leapt to my mind (besides the fact that our “TV” is not only SD, but an old-fashioned tube with dials that’s older than me and has decayed enough to be really fuzzy, especially with our cable box letterboxing literally every channel) was the fact he’s a pretty decent-sized sports fan, and an absolute soccer fanatic. (This is one reason Chapter 3 of the book spends three sections on soccer.) His favorite team is Italian, his second favorite is the Seattle Sounders, and near as I can tell his third favorite is Barcelona. So you might think he’d be able to get by with a subscription to Sling TV, which carries beIN Sport for games from Italy and Spain and ESPN3 for any Sounders games that aren’t nationally televised. His second favorite sport is basketball, specifically the NBA, and Sling TV works very well for an NBA fan, since it carries both ESPN and TNT (but not, apparently, NBA TV, despite what I say in the book).

But in order to catch every Sounders game, namely a substantial percentage of the biggest ones (such as playoff games and games against rivals Los Angeles and Portland), he would also need access to MLS’ other English-language TV partner, FS1, which he would also need to catch most of his favorite European teams’ UEFA Champions League games, most of the World Cup, and half the baseball playoffs (which is another sport he follows). Since the Sonics left Seattle and he’s spent more time in LA, he’s become attracted to the Clippers as they’ve actually become good and lost their incompetent, racist owner, and regularly turns the TV on to their non-nationally-televised games on Fox Sports Prime Ticket, another Fox Sports outlet he would need access to. And while he’s not that big a fan of the Premier League, he has taken to watching a good number of their games given their wide availability under NBC’s contract, so he wouldn’t mind getting NBCSN as well.

While none of those channels are on Sling TV, all of them are on PlayStation Vue, the streaming service Sony introduced last year, and Los Angeles is one of PS Vue’s few launch markets (as the presence of Prime Ticket indicates). But a year ago, when Sling TV was announced, I mentioned that it was preserving the cable bundle, not breaking it up, and PS Vue is that much more so – once it adds the Disney networks, as it’s slated to do soon, it will have channels from all nine of the companies I mention in Chapter 7 as controlling most of your cable lineup – so it hardly represents breaking free of the cable bundle or in line with the real spirit of cord-cutting, as Cord-Cutters News recently pointed out. A package of channels containing beIN Sport and Prime Ticket would set him back $59.99 a month, $54.99 a month under a promo offer, assuming those prices don’t go up when the service adds ESPN, and he still wouldn’t be able to catch non-nationally-televised Galaxy or Laker games on Time Warner Cable SportsNet, let alone Dodger games on SportsNet LA. Time Warner Cable, by my calculation, will be charging him about $125 once their rate hikes take effect, while offering the Internet speed he’s currently getting standalone for $45 for the first 12 months; throw in a $10 fee for modem leasing, and under all promotional offers he’d be paying $110, the same price he pays now, to essentially switch television providers and lose access to any channel not programmed by the Big Nine (or the Epix he receives in a promotional deal), before even picking up any other streaming services he might want like Netflix, or any other fees he’d still be paying.

In October, Todd Juenger, an analyst for an investment firm, laid out the exact process for how a standalone ESPN would dismantle the cable bundle. It wouldn’t be because sports fans would dump cable en masse to sign up for ESPN – like my dad, they would want to watch their local team on regional sports networks and other sports on FS1, NBCSN, TNT, and numerous other networks. Rather, it would be because ESPN’s defection would trigger a massive move to similar streaming services by all the other networks in the bundle, making it that much easier for non-sports fans to cut the cord and break free of the cable bundle – without sending $100 a year to ESPN. It’s a delicate balance holding the cable bundle together: ESPN needs everyone who wants to watch The Walking Dead, The O’Reilly Factor, Naked and Afraid, or Adventure Time to take part in some sort of bundle that forces them to pay the ESPN tax, but in order to justify that bundle’s existence, they need sports fans to need the entire bloated cable bundle. Look at it this way: sports fans whose cable companies are members of the NCTC wouldn’t cut the cord if the NCTC and its members followed through on their threat to drop AMC and deprive them of The Walking Dead, but losing the NCTC as a distribution partner would make it much more attractive for AMC to launch some sort of standalone service that would make it a lot easier for Walking Dead fans to stop paying the ESPN tax (especially if they could team up with Viacom, which has been missing from Suddenlink for over a year, as mentioned in the book), while doing the same to Fox or some other outfit with valuable sports might just set off a chain of events that causes the cable bundle to collapse surprisingly rapidly. ESPN is effectively ransoming all the other members of the Big Nine to remain tied at the hip with them, and the more of them that are themselves invested in sports on cable, the better.

A while back, after wondering why ESPN kept helping Fox win sports rights in order to box out NBC when Fox was already looking like a more credible challenger to ESPN’s throne, I seized on a throwaway comment in a post on the Frank the Tank site to write a post of my own suggesting that, while ESPN may not have wanted competition, what they really didn’t want was for that competitor to be associated with one of their distribution partners, making it that much easier for Comcast to drive them a harder bargain on distribution fees, to the point of building FS1 as their own competitor in order to keep NBCSN down. In turn, Dave Warner, proprietor of the What You Pay For Sports website, seized on that post and made it an important piece of his own message, even as I became uncomfortable with building too much of a theory on a one-paragraph comment that may not even have reflected its author’s full thoughts on the issue, or even necessarily was held all that strongly by its original author (especially after NBC’s original Premier League deal, made shortly after my post, re-raised the spectre that Comcast just wasn’t that interested in running down ESPN). My post led Warner to believe that there was no way ESPN would let NBC re-up with the Premier League when that contract came up for renewal last year, that NBC had built the value of the property so much and had picked up enough momentum from it that ESPN would have to bring it to a screeching halt. Obviously, that didn’t happen; in fact, even before that ESPN decided it didn’t want to keep NASCAR any more, which combined with Turner’s own decision to that effect basically placed perhaps the most valuable property NBCSN has yet attained into their lap. Clearly, there’s more to the story of why ESPN would help out Fox so much than just “we need to keep NBC out at all costs”.

Part of the explanation, as suggested in the book, might be that companies are willing to team up to keep their own price down. But perhaps a more accurate explanation might be that ESPN doesn’t want to have a complete monopoly on sports on television – if it were, everyone else could team up to create a service without it (which, ultimately, is why ESPN and Disney signed up for PS Vue, a deal only announced in November). Instead, ESPN is willing to sprinkle just enough sports throughout the rest of the cable bundle to give sports fans a decent enough reason to keep giving money to as much of the Big Nine as possible, without giving up so much to actually allow anyone to challenge them (or raise their fees enough to accelerate cord-cutting, or dilute ESPN’s own value). ESPN is fine with staying out of the regional sports network business and letting Fox and Comcast be the dominant players there, and they’re willing to let Fox and Comcast have enough content to build their own national sports networks without getting anything truly valuable. It’s true they would rather have Fox be stronger than Comcast be strong enough to drive a hard bargain with them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want Comcast to have anything valuable, just that they’d rather have NBCSN remain a niche sports network (and in some very real senses, the Premier League and NASCAR are still niches) and help Fox get the stuff on the higher end of the value scale that ESPN is willing to give up. After all, as more sports (like, say, the half of the LCS that wasn’t there already) move to cable, regardless of the network that airs it, giving sports fans more of a reason to stay tied into the cable bundle, ESPN benefits more than anyone. As Awful Announcing’s Matt Yoder put it, “In what other industry can you still get 24 times as much money from a customer who chooses your competitor’s product over your own?”

This turns pretty much everything I’ve written about the sports TV wars – including the big book I just put out – upside down. I’ve framed the war as ESPN protecting their hegemony against insurgents, but cord-cutting is the real insurgency, and it may be that ESPN (maybe without even initially realizing it) has actually used Fox and Comcast to protect their hegemony by fortifying the resiliency of the cable bundle. The title of my book, The Game To Show The Games, may have been more accurate than I realized – for ESPN, it’s just another game for them to benefit from, perhaps even more so than college football or the NFL. The cable bundle truly is ESPN’s world, and everyone else is just paying the rent – literally.