ESPN has been taking its lumps over stories about cord cutting and the number of subscribers it has lost over the years. But as it continues to downplay the effect cord cutting is having on its ratings and bottom line, the Worldwide Leader is getting some help from the company that counts the numbers for the networks.
Last month, ESPN lost more subscribers according to the Sports TV Ratings Twitter account:
guess ESPN losing another 417K subs (per Nielsen) from January to February won’t get any play until @RichBTIG tweets it.
— Sports TV Ratings (@SportsTVRatings) February 1, 2016
@RichBTIG is industry analyst Rich Greenfield of BTIG who has been critical of ESPN and its shrinking subscriber numbers. But even with the cord cutters, Nielsen revised the amount of those who have dropped ESPN according to the New York Post’s Claire Atkinson:
Nielsen (under client pressure) decided to remove broadband-only homes from its sample, but it didn’t restate historical data. It is now showing that, as of December, 1.2 million homes had cut the cord, a much smaller number than its earlier figure of 4.33 million homes for the year.
Disney said in a statement: “Nielsen’s correction reinforces what we’ve said all along, that the vast majority of consumers prefer the multichannel bundle.”
Greenfield replied with the following statement:
“If this is an important issue for ESPN, they should start releasing actual subscriber numbers rather than relying on third parties [Nielsen]. If they are upset with the confusion, let’s see the actual number of paying subscribers in the US over five years.”
The adjustment will help ESPN with the ratings and ensure that the subscriber losses look better on its stat sheets than what has been reported. But even that still hasn’t offset the lower confidence in the company that began last when Disney’s stock tumbled last summer. And it appears Greenfield will continue to pound ESPN until he sees a turnaround in the numbers.