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Stick to Sports: ESPN Sends FiveThirtyEight to ABC News As Network Attempts to Depoliticize

AP Nam Y Huh
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

ESPN is sending its political/sports site FiveThirtyEight over to the ABC News, perhaps to blunt criticism that ESPN is too political.

The blog, famously helmed by statistician Nate Silver, was brought to ESPN from the New York Times in 2013, and launched as an ESPN feature in 2014. But with pressure on the cable network to get away from politics, the data-driven sports, politics, and culture site has to go, according to Awful Announcing.

Silver made his announcement of the move on Twitter:

Silver later added that ESPN will still promote any of his posts that focus on sports.

ABC News President James Goldston also released a statement praising the “brilliant” Nate Silver:

I have exciting news to share. Nate Silver and his brilliant FiveThirtyEight team are joining ABC News from ESPN.

At a time when politics has never been more extraordinary, fascinating, and confusing, FiveThirtyEight will help us bring even more clarity and insight to what’s really going on.

They’ve won numerous awards, including Data Journalism Site of the Year in 2016, with their unique blend of creative smarts, compelling and witty journalism and statistical analysis. And I am hopeful that the combination of their skills and ours will lead to even more great work in the years ahead.Of course,

FiveThirtyEight is much more than just politics, and we will be working closely with them and with ESPN on their sports, science and tech verticals too.

But Awful Announcing notes that this move may actually be a bit of a defeat for ESPN. The sports cable network was making noises about selling the blog, but by just transferring it over to ABC News, perhaps there were no buyers.

“Given that ESPN was reportedly exploring more dramatic options such as an outright sale or spinoff of FiveThirtyEight, it seems possible that offers there weren’t at the level they hoped and it made more sense to keep the site within the larger Disney corporate empire, but just transfer it over to ABC News,” Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz speculated.

ESPN has also shuttered several of its other personality-driven blogs, so shuttling off Silver’s signature site to the ABC News website may be part of that internal re-tooling. Bucholtz notes that this move is just another example of the death of the “old ESPN” and the birth of the new one under new president Jimmy Pitaro.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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