Linda Cohn: Anyone Ignoring Some Viewer Distaste for ESPN Politics Is "Blind"


Linda Cohn has anchored over 5,000 SportsCenter episodes — the most of anyone in ESPN history. She joined the Bernie & Sid show on WABC on Thursday, and, unsurprisingly, ESPN layoffs were a major topic of conversation.

“I’ve never been involved in something like this where many of my closest friends — you would just look on social media, and one by one you would see them saying good-bye,” Cohn said. “And it was really eerie. I don’t know how else to explain it … We all know what this business is like. We all know there are no guarantees, even if you have a contract. It’s just the way it is. So I think people had their eyes wide open, and if they didn’t have their eyes wide open they were really being foolish.”

She said that in the broadcasting business, and in many businesses, you have to look out for yourself and have your guard up about trusting people. She noted being very sad about losing her weekend co-anchor, Jay Crawford, and said that she has been told that she is safe “for now.”

“What’s sad is, as we all know in life, this should never have happened. And, the people that made these decisions, it’s truly a shame that they could not have seen this coming in the mistakes they made. And now, people that it wasn’t their fault are the victims of bad decision-making.”

Cohn agreed that rights deals with the leagues are “part of the pie” in what went wrong. “They definitely overpaid for many of these products, whether it’s the NBA or starting up networks like the Pac-12 Network and SEC Network. It’s well documented … They [also] did not see that they would lose all these subscribers [to competitors like Netflix.]”

She also discussed “certain programming decisions.”

“I felt that the old school viewers were put in a corner and not appreciated with all these other changes,” Cohn said. “And they forgot their core. You can never forget your core and be grateful for your core group.”

Cohn was asked about politics and social stories like Colin Kaepernick, and Caitlyn Jenner winning an ESPY award for courage over Lauren Hill, and whether there is a “distaste” among some viewers for these programming decisions.

“I’ll tell you, I’m always very frank with you and every time I speak, and you’re right. You’re right. That’s definitely a percentage of it. I don’t know how big a percentage. But if anyone wants to ignore that fact, then they’re blind. And that’s what I meant about the core group of what made ESPN so successful.”