The recent announcement by ESPN that it will dump nearly all its outdoor shows by the end of the year can only be called disappointing news for boating. While this includes both hunting and fishing shows, its the latter that have been the weekend morning staple for both freshwater and saltwater anglers.
Upon reflection, its hard to believe weve been watching these outdoor shows on ESPN for 30 years. Time does fly! And, we may not have given it much thought at the time, but these high quality fishing shows helped bring the fishing and boating lifestyle to the whole country week in and week out. The overwhelming majority of these shows featured fishing from boats. So, having them disappear from view on a sports giant like ESPN is not good for the sport or our industry.
Reports indicate the entire saltwater series will go along with most freshwater programs. The only exception will be Bassmasters (B.A.S.S. Tournament Trail) because its currently owned by ESPN. But, theres speculation the network is looking to sell that off, too. At least for the moment, that much bass angling is slated to continue.
Among the shows that will see their lines cut are: Fishing Adventurer, A Day on the Lake, World's Greatest Fishing Show, Wanna Go Fishing, the Saltwater Series and the Madfin Shark Series. Gone, too, will be Spanish Fly, hosted by popular angler Jose Wejebe. It was the first saltwater show to air on ESPN 15 years ago.
But, it aint over till its over, to echo some Yogi Berra wisdom. ESPN has indicated most of the shows are contractually free to move to other outlets and several are reportedly already in active search for a new home. In Wejebes case, for example, when rumors started to circulate that ESPN might stow its outdoor programming, he began researching alternate plans. And, in recent years, there have been other excellent fishing shows that have left the ESPN stable for success in other outlets. Mark Sosins Saltwater Journal is a good example.
The news isnt all bad, of course. There are still many good fishing shows on TV, for example Lindners Angling Edge, which is the longest running (40 years) fishing show in history. There are dozens more running on local or cable networks around the country. And, for the shows that will disappear from ESPN, we can hope there are major network opportunities waiting at outlets like Fox Sports Net, Versus, the Outdoor Channel, the Sportsman Channel, among others.
Still, losing the clout of the sports Goliath that is ESPN, with the impact it has had in promoting the boating/fishing lifestyle, is not the kind of news we need right now.?