In an unsurprising move for a variety of factors, ESPN is reportedly cutting back on hospitality and travel plans for the Super Bowl in 2021.
The game is currently set for February 7th in Tampa Bay, but there’s always a chance it gets pushed back weeks if necessary to allow for a pandemic-extended regular season to be completed. Combined with the uncertainty around whether gatherings of people would be allowed or advisable and the general need to cut costs, ESPN’s decision, as reported by Sportico’s Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams, makes a lot of sense.
ESPN executives have been told not to plan for travel or hospitality for the Super Bowl in February, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations, becoming the latest major NFL partner to scale back its presence at America’s biggest sporting event because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Making the call now saves ESPN from even having to plan for the possibility, which is a big saver in itself. And it seems like the smart choice; it’s hard to envision that in just four months we could be back to traditional media hospitality or travel around a Super Bowl.
ESPN had actually been cutting back in recent years anyway, as Sportico also noted, focusing more on the College Football Playoff (which they actually air) in favor of the Super Bowl (which they don’t.) Still, it was traditionally a big week for on-site production, among other events.
ESPN isn’t in the rotation for televising the Super Bowl, but it generally sends a large contingent to the event both for hospitality and for coverage. While the on-air talent and production plans remain in place, executives have been told that travel and client entertainment will be heavily reduced, if not eliminated, the people said. The company also typically reserves a hotel on site at the game. It’s unclear how these plans, which could change in the future, will affect its accommodations.
In the end, given how used to remote coverage we all are at this point, it’s hard to see this as much of a loss, from a viewer’s perspective.