When it comes to complicated issues in the television world, no one explains it quite like SportsCenter anchor Kenny Mayne. This year, Mayne explained viewability, making an entrance via a stage elevator that stopped with him halfway raised so the audience could see him only from the waist up.
“Hello gullible upfront attendees.
“We had two performers from maybe the most popular show in the history of Broadway [Hamilton] followed by Ed [Erhardt, president of global sales and marketing at ESPN] armed by a power point. So I love Ed. That took some nerve.
“Each year they bring me out here to address you on our most important message. Last year it was big data. What the hell ever happened to that? I could care less.
“This year I’m going to talk about viewability. This is me at 49%. So you’re going to have to pay for this. But you’re missing the full picture, like when you’re watching ESPN Monday Night Football and Aunt Dixie stands up to rearrange the coffee-table books and blocks the screen. Sit your fat ass down Aunt Dixie,” he said.
The elevator then rose to stage level.
“Here I am at 100%. Even Aunt Dixie can’t stop me from being consumed by you in full now plus Aunt Dixie’s dead. I’m glad a death in my family can brighten your morning. Anything for the client.
“I stand here as a metaphor for the way consumers such as you receive something in its totality, you binge-watching, commercial skipping bastards. You’re ruining our business. The truth is that the execs sent me my marching orders on Snapchat, but it disappeared before I could read it. I don’t see a lot of permanence in that. A flaw in that design, maybe. My daughters told me to screenshot a Snapchat. The sender and the North Korean government immediately know you did so. In the case of ESPN management, some people believe that’s the same thing. Not me.
“So screw it. Let’s talk about you. Are you still buying that bullshit Scott [Van Pelt] was talking about, the 18 to 34 year old males being the only demographic? My daughters aren’t male. They’re not 18, but I’m a human ATM to them and they’re buying a lot of the crap you people are selling.
“The audience members aren’t really fair to ESPN. How many times have you seen a half dozen millennials gather around somebody’s mobile device because theirs is shattered and they're living their life through the other person. They’re watching Steph Curry hit a 40 foot jumper, and it’s preceded by a great 15-second ad everyone pays rapt attention to it. Plenty of times that happens. I’m the guy who told you about big data. You can trust me.
“Those audience measuring people don’t really give us credit for companion viewing, especially in those out-of-home environments.
“Like back at UNLV where I would gather at the local college eatery with other alma mater like Jimmy Kimmel, Suge Knight and Randall Cunningham. Had we all gone to school at the same time, yeah I would have done that. Makes for a hell of a story at the upfront.
“A lot of companion viewing is done what you call over the top. When I was a kid that meant behaving like Aunt Dixie’s husband Uncle Bill. He’d run around like a rodeo clown when you said you liked the designated hitter rule. STFU Uncle Bill. He’s dead also.
“Anyway anywhere dozens or hundreds of people gather to enjoy sports and the advertising that ruins it, compliments it and enhances it, these numbers aren’t counted when it comes to counting up audience, which creates a ratings number which creates the desire to advertise, which creates: I get a speedboat.
“No one ever says lets go to the sports bar and watch a Ken Burns documentary. And I love Ken Burns. Ken Burns doesn’t care about the money. He makes those 12-hour damn documentaries for free. He’s a volunteer. We here at ESPN are not volunteering. We want your money.
“Someone you trust less than me will tell you all the reasons you want to support our content with your advertising dollars. My speedboat, the gas is not free, you understand. But my Aunt Dixie said Ken, one day the media landscape is going to fragment due to disruptive technological change. She said this when I was five. I still thought people got in the back of the TV and performed for us. All these years later I still don’t know how a TV works. And neither do you. Why do you think your sales rep tries to buy you off with game tickets? It’s a lot easier than facing the truth together. Whatever that is."
The elevator lowered Mayne again through the floor.
“So here I am, going down to 49%. But you’re still hearing me. I’m in your head. I’m on SportsCenter tonight in Los Angeles, and the show is sold out by people who understand viewability.”