BOSTON (CBS) — In recent weeks, ESPN announced it would air a show starring two contributors to the at-times controversial website Barstool Sports, a decision that drew the attention of the sports media industry.
But after just one episode, the network is pulling the plug.
ESPN president John Skipper announced on Monday that he personally has decided to end the show. The reason for the decision, according to Skipper, is that the network struggled to distance itself from the content of the website.
“While we had approval on the content of the show, I erred in assuming we could distance our efforts from the Barstool site and its content,” Skipper said.
The show featured Dan “Big Cat” Katz and a man known only as “PFT Commenter” — a name he created himself as a satirical online poster. The two host a highly popular sports podcast, “Pardon My Take,” and ESPN hired them to try to appeal to that audience.
Though the debut episode aired in a 1 a.m. weekday timeslot on ESPN2, the initial TV ratings were promising.
The show, however, wasn’t without controversy. ESPN reporter Sam Ponder expressed her disappointment with the network’s decision to align with Barstool, considering some of the comments that had been made about her by Barstool contributors over the years. Barstool ended up digging up some unflattering tweets from Ponder’s own history.
Based on Skipper stepping out and saying he was personally canceling the show, that rift with Ponder was perhaps an issue that was taking place behind the scenes, not in a public venue like Twitter.
At the same time, the first episode featured an interview with “SportsCenter” host Scott Van Pelt, who has been a frequent guest on the podcast since its launch. The duo of Big Cat and PFT have also made regular guest appearances on ESPN shows, like Ryen Russillo’s program.
On their official Twitter account, the hosts expressed their disappointment.
“We are very disappointed to hear that Barstool Van Talk has been cancelled by ESPN,” the show said. “We had a great time working on the show and were extremely excited about the future. Thank you to all the Award Winning Listeners/Waters for supporting us, and thank you to all the great people who worked alongside us at ESPN and Embassy Row. Although we are heartbroken, Pardon My Take will continue to get bigger and stronger every single day.”
Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy posted a live video through the website’s social media accounts after the announcement.
“The pressure, basically that they got internally, primarily the Sam Ponder tweet, was too much for them to overcome,” Portnoy said. “And people are expecting scorched earth right now — you’re going to get in between. Because I actually get why ESPN canceled the show. The executives there were put in a box. Sam Ponder, I’m not even really mad about her tweet. That was a grudge move. We attacked her; she waited for three years to drop revenge on our heads the night before, and she got accomplished what she wanted to get accomplished. She got the show canceled.”
Portnoy said he felt bad for the two hosts for losing the show.
“From what we heard, there was a mini uprising,” he said. “And when I say mini, I’d guess like 95 percent of ESPN employees actually like Barstool, and there’s a small minority, either for real reasons like they want their own show — shoutout Sarah Spain — whatever the case may be, there are people who didn’t like the show. And like anything we do with Barstool, the vocal minority stamps their feet and goes loud, loud, loud.”