Aaron Rodgers on The Pat McAfee Show Photo credit: ESPN

The Pat McAfee Show hit the ESPN airwaves this week, but it appears viewers are still warming to the program. The ESPN debut of PMS on Thursday was down 31 percent compared to the edition of SportsCenter that aired in that time slot last year.

While both Get Up! and First Take were also down relative to last year in viewership on Thursday, the PMS slot saw the largest decline year over year. The show averaged 228,000 viewers on ESPN, per Robert Seidman of Sports TV Ratings. The show was also down 15 percent among adults 18-49.

The Pat McAfee Show is simulcast live on ESPN+ as well as McAfee’s long-running YouTube channel in addition to airing on ESPN as part of the licensing agreement. Thursday’s show, which featured interviews with Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Adam Schefter, earned 440,000 (total, not average) viewers on YouTube, more than any show since April 17.

It is not a huge surprise that ESPN viewers may take a bit to become accustomed to PMS. It is remarkably different than anything ESPN has ever broadcast.

But after giving McAfee an $85 million deal and licensing his show, ESPN is clearly hoping for a significant return on investment. That can come in a variety of forms. ESPN+ subscribers get something extra on the platform. ESPN’s YouTube channel is already clipping McAfee segments and interviews, and the show will eventually be live on that channel daily as well.

Because the show is not exclusive to ESPN, though, right now the biggest return ESPN can get is that PMS powers its time slot to higher ratings than previous shows did. How PMS viewership on ESPN evolves over the course of the fall will be a key story for the network as it pursues outside investment and new distribution deals.

[Sports TV Ratings on Substack]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.