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.
News: Duke-North Carolina: 4,164,000 viewers (TV + streaming), most-watched reg season college hoops game on any network in last two seasons pic.twitter.com/1ejVzIeGFQ
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) March 7, 2017
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.