ESPN’s SportsCenter is generally credited with creating the “highlight” mentality that has driven the way we’ve consumed most sports in the past 40 years. It’s that same mentality, compelling audiences to find the important moments as quickly as possible, that’s eating into The Worldwide Leader’s bottom line as it scrambles to get back what it’s lost.
The proof is in the pudding and in this case the pudding is ratings via Bloomberg:
- Ratings for live episodes of “SportsCenter” are down ten percent.
- Ratings for Sunday pregame show “NFL Countdown” are down 13 percent.
- Ratings for NFL game broadcasts are down three percent.
- Overall viewership has fallen ten percent across the entire year (though ESPN claims it’s actually four percent since they did not have the same World Cup or NASCAR events in 2015 that they had in 2014).
While Fox Sports 1 and NBCSN still draw relatively-small audiences by comparison, they’re both trending in the other direction, up 14 percent and 25 percent in prime-time, respectively.
Of course, ESPN is still ESPN. Even in a year when it’s shed audience as well as high-profile staff, it’s still the No. 1 cable network commanding the highest monthly rate from pay-TV services ($6.64). It’s still got plenty of shows performing well, like College GameDay and the Mike & Mike telecast. Good luck finding an advertiser looking to reach men who doesn’t want to advertise with ESPN in some form.
ESPN’s also taking advantage of emerging avenues that don’t show up in the ratings. Their WatchESPN app alone adds 1.5 percent to their MNF ratings. Now that they’ve unveiled live streaming across mobile devices, that number should continue to grow.
So don’t cry for ESPN, at least not yet.