Financial woes at ESPN are mounting and cost-cutting is de riguer. After Thanksgiving, the network started to let go 250 employees, including on-air talent, crew and a service dog accused of sexual harassment by a chihuahua who works the lunch counter.
To further reduce overhead, ESPN commercials will be less funny and calls to the new “Golic & Wingo” talk show will be handled by a call center in New Delhi. ESPN studios will also move from Bristol to New York and the local public access channel Nutmeg, where they will start shooting once employees complete Nutmeg’s rigorous camera and production training classes.
A bright spot is that the cost-cutting moves are giving locals an opportunity to hit it big in cable TV.
ESPN spokesman Gerard Dorfer said, “Let’s just say, we saw what Farmington Valley’s public access has to offer and we were impressed.”
For instance, a slide in ratings has the network eying replacing Monday night NFL with less costly reruns of Bristol Eastern High School Lancers wrestling. ESPN is also dropping its “30 for 30” documentary series. In its place will be “Story Corner,” a sports story program “for kids who love faraway castles and dragons that breathe fire made of tangerine marshmallows.” The show’s host is Suzy Wanders, a substitute teacher who sniffs face powder and compulsively draws pictures of her imaginary friend, Princess Gupta. “This is a dream come true,” said Wanders, “as long as Princess Gupta approves.” She added to the air, “Right, your highness?”
“Kvetching with Mrs. Bergstein,” is slated for Tuesdays on ESPN Classic. Boardman reached out to Mrs. Bergstein, but her only comment was, “Oh my God. They put me up against ‘The Voice’. Can you believe it? Worse, my foot hurts and Dr. Wittman is out of town ’til Wednesday and I have this bald spot right above my neck. Can you see it?”
A Nutmeg talk show will debut as well. “What’s Up With That? with Gary Suet” replaces the unpopular “Pardon the Interruption.” Suet, who hosts the show with a hand puppet named, “Base Stealy, The Base-Stealing Squirrel,” relishes the chance to bring his brand of baseball knowledge and plumbing tips to a wider audience.
“I think like, I’m gonna talk about the Yankees and how they’re like this garbage disposal I’m fixing at Mrs. McGuffin’s,” said Suet. “So, uh, I normally get like two callers on a show, right? On ESPN, I’ll probably totally double that.”
“That’s right, man,” chimed in Base Stealy. “Gimme an acorn!”
“We think these shows will be wildly somewhat popular and help our bottom line,” said Dorfer. “By canceling ‘First Take’ alone, the network will save $100,000 a year just on Stephen A.’s wardrobe.”
He added with a nervous laugh, “If this doesn’t work, our parent company Disney says they’ll drop sports altogether and change us to TSC – ‘The Sewing Channel.'”