Ringing the bell of doom for ESPN has become a popular pastime in recent years as the network continues to suffer significant subscriber losses to cord cutting, resulting in waves of layoffs intended to reduce costs and appease Disney shareholders. That has led some media observers, such as Fox Sports’ Clay Travis, to declare that ESPN is in major trouble, more dire than most are acknowledging.

However, while the subscriber losses are eye-opening, is ESPN’s revenue stream really as poor as pundits like Travis are forecasting? That’s a topic we’ll be exploring in more depth at Awful Announcing. But in looking at the number of households that ESPN is losing, those who might feel they’re in position to capitalize aren’t benefiting from ESPN’s slide. In other words, ESPN’s losses aren’t resulting in gains for FS1. Far from it, actually.

The cable coverage for February were released on Tuesday. No, the numbers don’t look good for ESPN, but they look worse for FS1. According to the estimates available at Sports TV Ratings, ESPN lost 422,000 households in February. That should be plenty to continue the “ESPN is in trouble” narrative. So did FS1 lose fewer households during the same span? No, the network lost 565,000 households last month. A low tide is sinking both ships.

Those who might call out Travis for pointing out ESPN’s losses while overlooking FS1’s should probably note that ESPN is the bigger story, since it’s in more households than any other cable sports network. (Travis will also point out that he’s not currently on FS1 and that he owns the website where his commentary is hosted, not Fox Sports. Having said that, Travis still works for Fox Sports.) However, FS1 is in nearly as many households, so to be losing more of them than ESPN is something that deserves attention along with the doomsaying for ESPN.

By the way, for the talk that viewers are steering away from ESPN because of politics (and increased left-wing leanings), explain the ratings for last Saturday’s Duke-North Carolina telecast.

Yes, ESPN’s losses are a story. It’s a huge story in sports media and sports overall, considering how many live sports the network carries and the brand that it’s established. But the number of households that FS1 lost over the same period also should be noted. To not mention that comes off as ignoring the bigger picture to fit a narrative.

[Sports TV Ratings]

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is an editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has covered baseball for Yahoo! Sports, MLive.com, Bleacher Report and SB Nation, and provides analysis for several sports talk radio shows each week. He currently lives in Asheville, NC.

  • robbyburns

    The last part of this article is why people watch ESPN, for live sports especially a rivalry like Duke and North Carolina, of I’m the FOUR LETTER NETWORK that’s what, people are tuning out for various other reasons, cost (cord cutting), Netflix, politics, too many talking heads, but no one is getting rid of ESPN because of live sports (unless you are a NHL and NASCAR fan) hopefully ESPN shifts to as much live sports as possible.

  • Jared Theurer

    The football season is over. More people watched the Super Bowl than ever. Fox relies on football for viewership more than ESPN does, which still has deeper connections in various sports. However, I’m not denying that numbers for both networks are falling. Cord cutting is real. February is just not a good month for sports on any network.

  • Bscotch Bscotch

    What are you going to write about once Seidman is prevented from running a business on the strength of proprietary data he doesn’t pay for?

  • Respected Citizen

    FS1 could fold tomorrow and the games would just shift to FOX, FX, and the RSNs. A lot of the money spent on rights contracts would be recouped.

    ESPN, however, is in serious trouble.

  • dv Vaughn

    It’s not the coverage it’s sports in general people are losing interest period.

  • Paul Hue

    FS1 is equally as politically charged as ESPN and in the same one-sided manner: only leftists views are uttered. Not that we righties even want our own views espoused on sports shows. But both networks not only exclusively advocated leftist views by their hosts, but the only guests who ever comment politically do so from the left, and some of the guests are actually professional leftist rabble rousers. Do even lefty sports viewers want this?

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