A recurring thing with ESPN “insiders” appearing on studio shows is that they answer texts or take calls while on air, with NFL insider Adam Schefter particularly known for that. Schefter did it again on Thursday NFL livetaking a live call and telling his source “Hey, just live right now, let me call you back” while Marcus Spears spoke:
If you’re going to leak any information to Adam Schefter, have the decency to at least turn on ESPN and see if it’s on the air. pic.twitter.com/OT2frkFCar
— Horrible announcement (@awfulannouncing) January 27, 2022
In fairness to Schefter (seen on the right in the clip above), this particular issue doesn’t seem to be entirely on him. The first reaction watching this clip from this corner is “Why wouldn’t the production team mute Schefter?”, especially with each of these three panelists being in a different location (so there are streams separate video and audio for each participant, and there shouldn’t be any of them being picked up on each other’s mics). He wasn’t on camera at this point as they zoomed in on Spears, and it seems at least somewhat odd that the default procedure isn’t to “cut everyone offscreen”; most Zoom calls and the like have figured this out by this point. (And maybe it’s due process that just failed for some reason in this case; Schefter’s comments here certainly make it sound like he thinks he’s not currently at the on-air.) This particular case could have been handled without anyone outside of ESPN studios knowing that Schefter took a call with a judicious mute.
But there’s a larger point to discuss here, particularly with the on-air calls and texts that are recurring for Schefter. There’s at least one argument that ESPN is fine with him taking calls or answering texts while he’s on the air, given how often we’ve seen this, and there’s a argument for this. Live viewing of any ESPN program Schefter currently appears on, from NFL live at sports center at Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday night countdownprobably isn’t how most people interact with his overall presence on ESPN: it would be through his Twitter account (nine million followers) or ratings from the main ESPN and SportsCenter Twitter accounts (38.8 and 39.3 million subscribers, respectively), or even just with “ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting” on the Bottom Line ticker on screen and in ESPN.com stories.
It seems ESPN’s most valuable thing with Schefter is that he tells stories. And while that sometimes leads to “bad TV,” it’s easy to see them taking that trade-off given the much smaller number of people watching any show. Granted, it certainly seems possible that Schefter could crack nearly as many stories without taking calls or responding to on-air texts; many other journalists find this balance and report off-camera. But the priority here seems to be stories on TV, and that makes sense given everyone’s audience. (And it’s also worth noting here that it tends not to lead to that negative of a discussion for ESPN or for Schefter, with most comments about it tending to be “Look how hard he works!” and ” Look how many scoops he gets!” rather than “Why is he taking a live call?”)
And there’s a bigger angle to consider with ESPN, especially at this point. Seems like studio shows on ESPN’s linear channels meant a lot more to the company as a whole than they do now. There’s still an audience for them, and they still have value, but it’s worth bearing in mind that they’re not the primary way many people interact with ESPN on a day-to-day basis. And it does seem like ESPN will sometimes score wins in those other areas rather than prioritizing what’s specifically best for the given TV show at a certain time. Schefter’s phone calls are far from the only thing out there, but they’re an interesting example of how his ESPN role goes far beyond what he says about their studio’s lineup. (But with better use of a mute button, the conflict might not be so glaring.)
[Awful Announcing on Twitter]