The War of Words begins between ESPN and NBC Sports

ESPN has had an emerging rival in the all-sports all day broadcasting model in recent days with the rise of NBC Sports Network, and while the two have not had much to say about each other that may be changing.

According to USA Today the war of words began earlier this week when ESPN President John Skipper made some comments about rival NBC during ESPN’s upfront presentation that on the face of them did not seem to extreme, but that lit the fuse.

NBC shot back deriding ESPN’s quality and the value they deliver for the dollar they charge, ESPN shot back that more people use its mobile app than watch NBC, and so it goes. I expect that this will continue for some time, mostly at events such as the upfront presentations.

For those of you with a long memory you will recall the battles between ESPN and rival Fox when Fox was working on establishing itself as a 24/7 sports network. They sniped at each other; put their logos over all sorts of images to prevent rivals from using them and a host of other actions, many of them infantile.

Ah, the good old days. First they seemed to come to an understanding and ceased over use of their respective logos and refrained saying trite and petty things about each other and then finally Fox eventually threw in the towel and dropped its efforts, although rumors have recently come that it might be reexamining the idea.

While in some ways this current fight has no impact on sports fans, in other ways I believe that it will have a positive one. Competition is good for fans because hopefully it means the players involved will raise their game. I think that the rise of MLB’s network has made ESPN raise the level of Baseball Tonight, for instance.

One issue is that there is little overlap, ESPN has a large range of premium sports and NBC does not, although it does have the upcoming Olympics and a few other sports such as the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are seeing a strong resurgence in viewership. Other events such as the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012 and the Amgen Tour of California, while very good, just do not have the viewership of or the range of games that ESPN rolls out.

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