To close out a great 2014 for ESPN, the Worldwide Leader finished the year as cable’s most-viewed network. ESPN’s primetime audience jumped by 5% to 2.32 million viewers, according to a report from Multichannel News. ESPN finished third a year ago, behind Viacom-owned USA and ESPN sister network Disney Channel. USA finished in second with 2.13 million viewers, a startling 21% drop from a year ago. Disney Channel also took a hit, losing 22% of viewers to finish with 1.91 million average viewers, good for fourth in the country.

The new third-place network is another one that airs sports – TNT. TNT ended up losing 4% of its viewers from a year ago, landing at 1.99 million, but the larger decline by Disney Channel allowed TNT to pick up some ground. TNT also jumped History, which lost 14% of its viewers and ended the year with 1.82 million in fifth place.

18 of the top 25 networks ended up losing viewers compared to a year ago. The only networks that gained a similar percentage of viewers to ESPN were HGTV, which also grew by 5%, Spike at 4%, and ID at 13%.

No other sports networks finished the year in the top 25. SBJ’s John Ourand fired off the finishing positions of other relevant networks – ESPN2 in 41st, NFL Network in 46th, Fox Sports 1 in 50th, and NBCSN in 58th.

As for ESPN’s overall dominance of the scene, the final BCS Championship game was the most-viewed cable program of 2014 – the only member of the top ten that wasn’t an episode of The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead dominated the top 20 as well, with all 16 episodes that aired making the list. ESPN was responsible for the other four programs.

However, 29 of the top 50 programs were aired by ESPN.

There were no non-ESPN sports in the top 50, though Turner and NFL Network placed five games in the top 90.

What’s all of this tell us? Well, nothing we didn’t know already – ESPN is the dominant provider of live sports in this country, and no other sports network is remotely close. The allure of live sports is also carrying the network to a dominant position over long-time kingpins, a trend that probably won’t be turning around too much in the future. I don’t think the trend of live sports migrating to cable is going to be ending any time soon.

[Multichannel News]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

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