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Twitter Doesn’t Translate to TV, As Rex Chapman, Bomani Jones, Elle Duncan Prove

If you haven’t tuned into sports-talk television lately, you aren’t alone. Hardly anyone watches sports-talk anymore. Supposedly popular shows like First Take regularly draw half the viewers of programs like Dr. Pimple Popper and MAFS: Afterparty. We didn’t make those names up, they are real shows that people watch — and at far higher rates than they watch programs on ESPN.

The death of sports-talk television has many causes, but one such cause is particularly glaring: Twitter. Twitter has misled television executives into making serious programming miscalculations that have tanked their viewership.

Because Twitter allows users and bots to retweet, like and comment on tweets, blue-check accounts can make certain topics and opinions look popular in America, even though they aren’t. For example, Twitter activity led sports execs to believe that viewers were sick of Chris Berman, that the NBA had overtaken NFL in popularity, and that anyone without an active social media account had faded into obscurity.

And Twitter engagement told these same decision-makers that people want to hear more from the likes of Bomani Jones, Rex Chapman and Elle Duncan, three social media celebrities whom Twitter makes look like living legends.

None of that is true. Almost nobody knows who these people are, and those who do wish they didn’t.

Years ago, ESPN thought Bomani Jones’ Twitter bros would soon tune into ESPN Radio so they could listen to him on air in addition to reading his tweets. But they didn’t, and he drew the lowest ratings in ESPN Radio history. But wait, execs then thought, they will follow him to television. Nope. His TV show High Noon also drew the lowest ratings ever of any show on the network during that time slot.

Now, HBO is making the same mistake. HBO thought it could leverage Jones’ racist followers into new viewers. Here’s how that’s worked out:

Though following the highly-rated John Oliver, the debut of Race Theory with Bomani Jones lost 80% of Oliver’s viewership and averaged only 153,000 viewers. I Love Lucy reruns at 4 am are more popular than Bomani Jones. Seriously.

Far-left nut Rex Chapman is similar to Jones. He has 1.2 million Twitter followers, and athletes often retweet him. That’s hip. Fellow blue-checks call Chapman an influencer, like bikini models on IG. Chapman’s Twitter success has convinced CNN to give him a new streaming program on CNN+ and CBS/Turner to make him an analyst for the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

That experiment has been a disaster so far. On Saturday, Chapman paid tribute to Pete Gillen, the former Providence and Virginia coach. That’s all well and good, except that Gillen isn’t dead. He’s alive. In fact, Gillen works for CBS, the very channel on which Chapman gave him a eulogy. Watch:

CNN+ execs must have cringed when they saw that. While CNN+ hasn’t launched yet, Chapman is unlikely to fare better there than he has so far on CBS.

And this embarrassing blunder isn’t the biggest problem with Chapman. There’s no other way to put it — he sucks on camera. He’s dry, slow, boring and lacks charisma. He’s Adrian Wojnarowski without the good insights. Anyway, CNN will still charge $5.99 per month to watch him. So budget accordingly.

Then there’s Elle Duncan, who has recently risen up the ranks at ESPN. How? Well, first she capitalized on #GirlDad following Kobe Bryant’s death. Now, she mostly goes on Twitter to call western society racist and misogynistic, which is ironic considering she helped freeze Sage Steele out of a social justice special one year ago, claiming that Steele “wouldn’t be accepted by what [those on Twitter] considered the black community.” 

Because of Duncan’s social media fame, ESPN has given her free rein to drop F-bombs and weigh in on topics she doesn’t understand.

Friday was one such instance. Duncan interrupted a college basketball game to denounce an anti-grooming bill in Florida to prevent adults from having inappropriate and harmful conversations with children. Critics have misleadingly dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Duncan is very upset that Florida teachers can no longer talk to young children about sex:

These people are so creepy and shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near school children.

Social media has fooled sports executives for years. Twitter told ESPN that sports fans wanted to hear about George Floyd and Jacob Blake — they didn’t. Yet, networks fall for the ruse time and time again. Those that cater to a Twitter audience are destined to fail almost as often as Bomani Jones does. Here are some numbers:

Pew data finds that 3% of the population sends out 90% of all tweets. Only 8% of the US population is “active” on Twitter.

The same Pew study finds that Twitter users are D+15. Were Twitter a state, it’d tie Hawaii and Vermont as the most liberal in America. What’s more, the 10% of Twitter users who post 92% of all tweets are D+43.

Twitter has thus over-indexed a small, very liberal segment of the population and depreciated the other “non-active” 92% in the process. That’s why sports shows are not popular on television, they don’t cater to a general sports fanbase anymore. Talk about a disastrous business plan.

So we can’t just blame Bomani Jones for his failures or Rex Chapman for his awkwardness or Elle Duncan for her stupidity. We must also blame their bosses for thinking they’d succeed. There was more than enough evidence to show they would crash on air. The bosses didn’t heed the warnings.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

9 Comments

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  1. I think I’ve seen a similar breakdown before. Maybe on Outkick. Maybe somewhere else. But this was well put together on how a loud minority groupthink is dictating television/radio/streaming. I’ve often said, I’m not upset with the loud mouths who spout off constantly and complain about how bad everything is. Their lives are miserable and they want everyone else to be miserable. Those people will always exist. What’s changed is their platform to be heard by more people. It doesn’t make them right. It just makes them louder.
    But the people that disappoint me the most are the supposed “adults in the room”, the CEOs, the executives, who continue to cater to this nonsense. I won’t shed a tear when they lose their jobs over those disastrous decisions.

  2. Execs making huge business decisions on those 2 people yelling at the bus as it drives by and the mentally unstable homeless person talking to himself. It just shows how out educational system has failed, especially higher education.

  3. Excellent article. I can’t figure out why these execs let Twitter run them into the ground. They do the focus groups, the market research, and the test viewings. They have the same information as Twitter being over indexed and a very loud but tiny fraction of the public. But choose to cater to them instead of the other 92%.

    By comparison, 5% of Americans consider themselves to be vegetarians; 2% more than the 3% of the loudest people on Twitter. What these networks are doing would be the same as McDonalds abandoning hamburgers and chicken to serve falafel and tofu overnight.

  4. “Most people” have greatly exaggerated concepts of the influence of Twitter and Facebook. #1 – they think everyone sees what they see – They don’t. ….. #2 – they think “everyone” tunes in to Twitter Facebook – they don’t by a LOT.

    Case in point are ADs and Chancellors at Power5 schools who make knee jerk decisions to fire coaches based on several 100s goggle-eyed spittle-spewing lunatics posting dozens of times each day in ALLCAPS. …. “OMG! ,our entire fanbase is DEMANDING we fire Coach Hardrock … WE BETTER DO IT!”

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