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Abstract

This case study explores how a development on the fringes of the sports-media complex necessitates a critical political economy framework and concerns not only television but also ownership structures outside of “big media.” Specifically, it investigates the relationship between fitness giant CrossFit Inc. and its legacy distribution partners and the industry trends that led it to abandon dominant media in 2019, when it provided a free, open-source feed of its annual CrossFit Games to independent producers. Combining discourse analysis with a multi-level institutional perspective, this essay suggests that critical political economy is not an empty, top-down framework but is instead a holistic approach that meaningfully considers issues of culture and praxis. By demonstrating how an obscure private corporation with an idiosyncratic libertarian CEO wrestled control from incumbent media, this case study considers how non-mainstream financing structures may affect the production and consumption of cultural products. On a structural level, it also problematizes the totalizing notion of media conglomeration.

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