ESPN’s business model is collapsing and their viewers are bailing on the network with alarming speed, but even I was shocked by just how bad it has gotten when I checked out ratings over the past couple of weeks. ESPN’s ratings have tanked, even taking into account the usual summer doldrums.
This past Thursday ESPN aired nine different hour long versions of SportsCenter all day long. Eight of them were beaten by a two in the afternoon airing of Teletubbies on Nickelodeon. And the only SportsCenter that managed to beat Teletubbies on Nickelodeon did so by a slim margin — with 361,000 viewers on the 7 PM SportsCenter compared to 349,000 watching Teletubbies at 2 in the afternoon on Nickelodeon Thursday. (To be fair, my two year old said it was a great episode.)
And it wasn’t just SportsCenter getting trounced by Teletubbies. Highly Questionable had fewer viewers than TeleTubbies (350k) as did First Take (303k). Around the Horn managed to squeak out a victory over Teletubbies as did OTL. But only PTI produced a decent audience — 607k viewers — and even that was half as many viewers as something called Mutt and Stuff which drew 1.2 million viewers at 9:30 AM on Nickelodeon.
So Mutt and Stuff at 9:30 in the morning on Nickelodeon tripled every SportsCenter program ESPN put on all day long and more than doubled every single program ESPN had on all day long. And it’s not as if children’s programming is a growth industry, kids watch Netflix and on demand programming all day long now too. So ESPN is collapsing even faster than children’s programming.
Inevitably tons of people will Tweet, how about FS1? (And most will do it without reading the article at all, meaning they won’t ever see this.) First, I don’t work there, but, second, with little attention being paid to it, the Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe shoutfest has quietly been digging into First Take’s audience all summer long. Skip and Shannon produced 156k viewers on Thursday, meaning that of the three people who choose to watch First Take or Undisputed in that timeslot, ESPN is only winning that battle 2-1 now. That’s a seismic change from last summer when ESPN was winning the timeslot 30 or 40-1. So comparatively speaking, FS1 is doing pretty well.
And this is not just a one day or one week trend. Two weeks ago ESPN’s rating were even lower, every SportsCenter program produced less than 300k viewers. That has to be the smallest audience ESPN has produced in decades. And keep in mind these are ESPN ratings. The ratings for ESPN2, ESPNU and others are downright nonexistent.
So the big question is this — where are the viewers going and why do they keep leaving? Some will point to the summer as the reason, but it’s not as if there are great viewing options for anyone out there. Other than “Game of Thrones” on Sunday nights there aren’t even very many original programs on television at all right now.
Put simply, ESPN’s viewers are vanishing when it comes to any of their original programming. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can follow the TV ratings yourself, check out ShowBuzz Daily which features the top 150 rated cable programs every single day.
Might be time to give Colin Kaepernick a special lifetime achievement ESPY, guys.
Hell, I’d suggest throwing in the towel and just turning into a left wing cartoon network called MSESPN, but most would say you’re already there.