Recently the staff of Awful Announcing was perusing the internet for sports media stories and something interesting caught our eye. The site TVbythenumbers published Nielsen’s estimates of cable and satellite coverage for the major cable channels and it came up with some interesting numbers for the sports networks.

As of February 2015, ESPN is in about 94.396 million homes. ESPN2 is available to 94.379 million. Now, you notice that both networks are in about the same amount of homes. But these numbers are down from July 2011 when Sports Business Journal noted that both networks had reached over 100 million homes (100.1 million for ESPN and just over 100 million for ESPN2).

Now, what is the reason for the loss of 5.7 million homes for both The Mothership and the Network Formerly Known as the Deuce? Yes, cord cutters come immediately to mind. As recently as last year, ESPN had downplayed cord cutters saying that its cable model was still top priority.

But news about ESPN joining Dish’s Sling TV service to reach those who don’t have cable is a sign that the Worldwide Leader is treating cord cutters seriously. And don’t forget that Sony is courting ESPN to join its Playstation online streaming network.

So is cord cutting the main reason for the loss of 5.7 million homes for ESPN and is this affecting other sports networks? Golf Channel was in 79.25 million homes last year compared to 83.9 in 2011. But other networks are bucking the downward trend. NBCSN is estimated to be in 81.6 million homes this year, up from 76.1 when it was known as Versus in 2011. And Fox Sports 1 is in 84.8 million homes this year while it was in 78.4 million four years ago when it was Speed.

So is it cord cutting or another factor? ESPN remains the the top dog of all the cable sports network in terms of coverage, but is in 81% of homes with TV’s. So 19% of homes don’t have it. And if you’re wondering, Weather Channel is the most-carried network in 97.3 million homes and in 83.6% of the country and that is also down from 2011.

Perhaps it is cord cutting or millennials throwing out their TV’s to watch programs online. Whatever it is, the drop in homes bears watching and perhaps we go from a TV watching nation to a totally online country.

[Sports TV Ratings]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.