Date of Degree

9-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

William Kornblum

Committee Members

Stanley Aronowitz

Lynn Chancer

Subject Categories

American Popular Culture | Broadcast and Video Studies | Communication Technology and New Media | Film and Media Studies | Labor Economics | Leisure Studies | Mass Communication | Other Sociology | Political Economy | Science and Technology Studies | Sociology of Culture | Sports Studies | Theory, Knowledge and Science | Visual Studies | Work, Economy and Organizations

Keywords

Marxism, ESPN, Blogging, Fantasy Sports, Internet, Subsumption

Abstract

This dissertation is a series of case studies and sociological examinations of the role that the sports media industry and mediated sport fandom plays in the political economy of the Internet. The Internet has structurally changed the way that sport fans access sport and accelerated the processes through which the capitalist actors in the sports media industry have been able to subsume them. The three case studies examined in this dissertation are examples of how digital media technologies have both helped fans become more active producers and consumers of sports and made the sports media industry an integral and vanguard component of the cultural industry. The first case study is of Bleacher Report, a fan blogging platform turned major digital sports journalism company. Bleacher Report’s journey from an industry-reviled content farm to major player in digital sports journalism is traced to argue that Bleacher Report’s business model relied on the desperation of aspiring writers only as long as those writers were unpaid. The second case study is of DraftKings and Fanduel, the industry leaders in the fantasy sports genre of daily fantasy sports (DFS). These two companies have seemingly overnight taken over the new field but just as quickly thrust themselves into legal scrutiny that threatened to shut down the entire field of DFS. The proximity to gambling that threatened their legal status also, whoever, belies their relationship to the financialized understanding of that all of fantasy sports represents. The third and final case study is of ESPN. By far the oldest and most powerful of the three cases, ESPN, the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” has made the majority of its money off its innovation of the per subscriber fee, or the fee that ESPN charges cable companies to carry it that is then passed onto individual subscribers whether they watch ESPN or not. As digital technologies have revolutionized the delivery of visual images of sport and the cable bundle that ESPN is the most expensive part of loses market share, ESPN’s ability to monetize both attention and non-attention greatly decreases. The concluding chapter takes these case studies and attempts to synthesize them into a theory of what is termed “contentification,” or the tendency of digital technologies to take disparate forms of records (text, numbers, images) and treat them as “content” to be paid attention to. Sports are particularly prone to contentification and have helped drive the exponential expansion of content to be paid attention to that has resulted in a crisis of attention where the amount of content outstrips the human capacity to take it in. The reconfiguration of capital that finds its expression in the ending of net neutrality is the response to this crisis.

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