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Why was ESPN the Weekend cancelled?

The news last week that Disney had cancelled ESPN the Weekend permanently was a real shock to myself and many others.  Sometimes you can see the writing on the wall (Pirates and Princess party anyone?) but in this case, (pardon the pun) it came out of left field.  In the days since, it's left me pondering why exactly did Disney cancel ESPN the Weekend?

There are a number of theories out there based on speculation from many smart people.  Here are a few of the ones I think have some merit

  • New Hollywood Studios Vice President Dan Cockerell made the decision
  • Budget shortfall for Hollywood Studios and/or need to cut back on park spending
  • Event cost too much to continue holding the event

All of those reasons could be a factor in the decision, but I really think the reason ESPN the Weekend was cancelled because of ESPN.  

The reason behind why I think ESPN cancelled the event is based on another weekend event that was cancelled a few years ago, Super Soap Weekends.  That event drew crowds much larger than ESPN the Weekend ever did and was a very popular annual tradition, but the Soap Opera division of  ABC Television decided to cancel the event and go with a national tour instead.  With ESPN the Weekend, ESPN really holds the cards for how the event is set up and Hollywood Studios is a glorified event space that they "rent out".  

Let's not forget that ESPN "replaced" ESPN the Weekend with a series of "ESPN RISE" games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.  No one really thinks this is a replacement, it's just something else ESPN can announced.  However, I think ESPN lost interest in the annual event and opted to go in a different direction.  The concept for ESPN the Weekend in the first place was based on the network's 25th anniversary and the novelty of that could have worn off.

More than likely, we will never know the exact reasoning why ESPN the Weekend was cancelled.  In matters like these, Disney is overly-secretive about the why's and how's and will power their way through this announcement, ignoring the chorus of upset fans and others wanting to know more.  It's their perogitive to operate in such a manner, but I think it only serves to create more resentment than understanding.

It saddens me that ESPN the Weekend was cancelled, for whatever reason.  Having been to the event over the last few years, I've really seen improvement with it and I had come to really enjoy it.  The event even became larger in the last two years with more and more media being invited to ESPN the Weekend to cover it.  It wasn't perfect and lacked the player/fan interaction that should have been there, but it was such an unique experience that sports fans really got a kick out of.

I'll miss the Baseball Tonight question and answer sessions, athlete interviews and interactive sportszone.  I'll miss seeing other Florida Marlins fans in the parks, the few of us that there are (thanks Cheryl).  And I'll miss having this fun event to look forward to every year.  Not too long ago, Hollywood Studios was home to three unique weekend events and now we're down to just Star Wars Weekends.

Farewell ESPN the Weekend.  You may have started off a little awkwardly, like a rookie who is called up the major leagues and struggles a bit, but you found your stroke and started hitting for average and even showed a little pop in your bat.  You'll be remembered fondly, and while you didn't have what it took to make it to Cooperstown, I think ESPN the Weekend will be missed by Hollywood Studios fans.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 by