The numbers of subscribers for cable sports networks continue to plummet, and ESPN is once again one of the hardest-hit. ESPN had a peak of 99 million subscribers in 2013, but fell to 92 million by November 2015 and 90.8 million in February, and now they’re down even further. Sports TV Ratings recently posted the June 2016 cable coverage estimates from Nielsen, which show that ESPN has dropped by another 1.5 million subscribers, and other sports networks are falling as well. Here are the key numbers for ESPN’s networks, as well as FS1, FS2 and NBCSN:
While FS1, and to a lesser extent NBCSN, are also down significantly (interestingly, FS2 is up), the blows to ESPN and ESPN2 are the biggest news here, especially considering that lackluster ESPN results are already hurting Disney’s stock price. This will be a substantial revenue blow for ESPN; What You Pay For Sports has the monthly per-subscriber fee for ESPN alone as $6.61, so this drop of 1.523 million subscribers means a loss of $10,067,030 monthly, and that’s before you consider the impact of lower ratings and lower advertiser revenue from less subscribers. ESPN2 also has a monthly subscriber fee of $0.83, so their loss of subscribers would be a monthly $1,288,990 hit. Meanwhile, FS1 is taking a bit of a hit too, with a $0.99 subscriber fee and a monthly loss of $947,430. Still, it’s the blow to ESPN that’s the most notable, given how big their fee is and how much money comes in from it. Their lead in subscribers over FS1 and NBCSN is also dwindling a bit. It will be interesting to see if they can find a way to turn this around, if it adds impetus to their plan to be included in skinny bundles and streaming services, and if it ever convinces them to actually launch a standalone over-the-top service to try and recapture some of these cord-cutters.
(Correction: this post initially had NBCSN going up. Its numbers are down by 304,000.)