As successful TV networks go, ESPN hasn't exactly had the smoothest time in recent years, from mass firings to subscription exoduses to...other issues. The sports giant took some recent heat for teaming up with the sports-heavy comedy website Barstool Sports for the TV series Barstool Van Talk. After only one episode aired on ESPN2, on October 18, the company announced that Barstool Van Talk had been cancelled.
The statement put out by ESPN President John Skipper cited the problem as an inability to put enough distance between the network and Barstool Sports itself, which is far from the most politically correct website on the Internet. Of course, Barstool has always been a home to content that some have deemed as sexist and other -ists, with a reputation for posts that are anything but Disney-approved. So it begs the question why the money-oozing ESPN readily entered into this deal in the first place. You can check out Skipper's statement below.
ESPN likely went forward with this project because Barstool Sports has built a big audience who knows exactly what they're getting when they visit the site, watch its videos, and listen to its Pardon My Take podcast. It's always going to be better for a TV network to develop a project with a built-in fanbase than to start something completely from scratch, but someone clearly wasn't thinking too far ahead about branding issues whenever Barstool Van Talk got the green light.
Recently, ESPN football sportscaster Samantha Ponder publicly voiced her issues with the network working with Barstool Sports and its outspoken founder Dave Portnoy. She referenced an episode of the Pardon My Take podcast where her name came up in not-the-most-flattering light, and expressed disappointment in ESPN for creating Barstool programming.
Following ESPN's announcement, Dave Portnoy set up a faux press conference that went out live on social media, in which he slammed ESPN for being inauthentic and unstable, also saying that the network needed Barstool more than Barstool needed ESPN. He later shed some light on how long ESPN execs had allegedly been aware of some employees' issues with Barstool content, only to later go ahead with the show anyway.
So while fans won't be able to watch Barstool Van Talk on ESPN2 anymore, Barstool Sports is still very much alive and kicking. As is ESPN, with yesterday's Monday Night Football was a much-needed ratings win. And you can hit up our fall premiere schedule to see all the other new and returning shows hitting TV soon.