Amid financial cutbacks that have seen two rounds of layoffs in the past year, ESPN is putting Nate Silver’s analytics site, FiveThirtyEight, up for sale. Purchased by the sports media powerhouse from The New York Times, the political and sports offshoot has called ESPN home since 2013.
The network released a statement yesterday, saying, “FiveThirtyEight is a tremendous asset to ESPN, and together we’ve created exceptional content. We are exploring, with Nate, a variety of options for the future, and any discussion of exactly what that might look like would premature.”
According to The Big Lead, an ESPN employee confirmed that two potential landing spots have emerged in and ABC News. ABC News is owned by ESPN’s parent company, Disney, so if the site were to become affiliated with the national news outlet, it would represent more of an in-house spinoff than a sale.
While the financial issues looming over ESPN have led to a thinning of staff and content, the sale of FiveThirtyEight could also be motivated by the network’s desire to stay out of political commentary. The network came under fire from the White House last year when Sportscenter anchor Jemele Hill called President Trump a “white supremacist” on Twitter. ESPN chose not to discipline her after the White House demanded that she be fired for her comments.
Even though no punishment was delivered, the comments led to the implementation of new social media procedures by then-ESPN President John Skipper. The network would like to stay out of the firestorm that political discourse has morphed into over the past few years, and parting with FiveThirtyEight falls in line with that desire.