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Word is that the new ESPN executive VP, John Skipper, is going a new direction in Bristol. His predecessor Mark "Hollywood" Shapiro was the one on the watch during hockeys downfall at the four-letter, and also responsible for the Entertaining Sports Programming Network's emphasis on the "E" and not the "S".

Under Shapiro the philosophy seemed to be more in line with Hollywood because the philosophy was "If it ain't popular, then it's not worth our time, if it is popular, it's the only thing worth talking about." So they over cover football, baseball, and basketball while ignoring hockey, soccer, women's sports, and everything else. They were more focused on personalities and gossip than on sports.

Well resentment from sports fans grew, and bloggers, including this one, media outlets, and even their own ombudsman(s) hammered ESPN for basically a lack of journalistic integrity.

Well there's a new Skipper at the helm (get it?) and he is starting to change the culture. IT's a work in progress but, as the ESPN ombudsmen points out, the ESPN coverage of Michael Vick was actually very good for the most part if not eventually over top eventually. In contrast Terrell Owens got the same amount of coverage 2 years ago for basically being a bad teammate. I shudder to think what the coverage of the Vick case would have been like under the Shapiro.

What does this mean for you, the hockey fan? Well It means that ESPN won't be spending their time on made for TV movies such as "3" and "Bronx is Burning" and wasting their time on shows such as "ESPN Hollywood" or whatever that terrible sports gossip show was called.
John Skipper, who as executive vp content for ESPN is in charge of content across ESPN’s many platforms, said it’s not about broadening the audience but instead about giving their current audience more of what they crave.
Translation: We want to show sports, not stupid crap. This, hopefully, includes more time for sports that may fly under the radar in the states, like Hockey. More highlights on SportsCenter and less of the yappity-yap.

While there's still a long ways to go to return the four letter to the golden years, they are taking steps, baby steps, towards regaining their credibility. Hopefully all those hollywood type shows will be replaced with shows like "NHL tonight", and maybe even hockey games.

Stay tuned