“Perhaps ESPNBoston.com™s newest business partnership will not prove to be a colossal conflict of interest in the long run,” opines the Boston Globe’s Chad Finn. “But upon first glance, that™s precisely what it appears to be.”
ESPNBoston.com, which became the second of ESPN™s planned network of city-specific sites to launch Sept. 14, is using Kraft Sports Group as its local advertising sales agent for the site. SportsBusiness Daily was the first to report news of the partnership on Thursday.
Kraft Sports Group is a holding company founded by Patriots owner Robert Kraft (above, far left) in 1998, four years after he purchased the NFL franchise. Along with the Patriots, Kraft owns the Revolution of Major League Soccer as well as Gillette Stadium, the venue for both teams™ home games.
Given that a significant amount of ESPNBoston.com™s coverage is dedicated to the Patriots, and a smaller amount to the Revolution, the partnership is beginning on dubious journalistic ground.
ESPN™s general strategy with its localized websites is to launch in cities where it already owns and operates an ESPN Radio station, then have the station™s staff coordinate ad sales for the website. Such was the case when ESPN Chicago launched in April.
While the ESPN mother ship has not been reluctant to criticize the franchise – it was relentless in its reporting and speculating during the œSpyGate™™ controversy of 2007 – the situation bears monitoring to see whether ESPNBoston.com™s curious new bedfellow has an effect on its reporting of potentially unflattering Patriots news.
Though it’s a bit early days to accuse ESPNBoston of lacking integrity, Finn would be remiss not to raise the points above. He’s equally remiss, however, in failing to disclose (even if it’s old fuckin’ news) the Globe’s parent company, The New York Times, holds a minority stake in the Boston Red Sox. Though I can’t think of an example of the Globe covering anything up to curry favor with John Henry, Larry Lucchino or Tom Werner, a number of shots have been taken by Globe writers at former players who’ve ended up on ownership’s shit list for one reason or another. Heck, the team almost lost a General Manager a few years ago over what seemed like a victorious power play on the part of Lucchino, successfully (for a while, anyway) engineered with the help of the CHB.