ESPN is having a lot of problems with its ratings. They are attributing this to cord cutting but really the problem is that
nobody wants to watch sports that are fixed. Even if people don't realize the sporting events are fixed, they
sense it intuitively and become less interested. As the refs are more and more obviously biased they stop caring about
their teams because the whole system seems unfair.
That's the real reason ESPN's ratings are declining so quickly. They say it's cord cutting but that doesn't make any sense.
Sports events and footage are some of the most stable media rights. Fans will pay anything to see their favorite teams.
People will add extra cable packages just to see sports. So it doesn't make sense that Sports being so stable for so long
that they are all of a sudden declining.
In March 2017, several outlets gleefully reported that ESPN was near collapse as a network. Conveniently, several of these
reports came from competitors to ESPN who hope to capitalize and gain market share. Nonetheless, it is true
that ESPN will be cutting $100 million in salaries -- most from very recognizable on-air talent -- in a cost-cutting
move to shore up their bottom line.
This new report comes mere months after a report showing that ESPN is losing subscribers at an alarming rate. In November
2016, ESPN lost over 600,000 subscribers, its worst month ever. ESPN has historically been a workhorse performer, one
of the most successful cable channels of all time. Driven by live events, previously unavailable sports updates, an offbeat
delivery, and compelling content, ESPN reached must-watch status and stayed there for a couple of decades.
At the height of their popularity, in 2011, ESPN was available in over 100 million homes. A few years ago, however,
the tide began to ebb. As of December 2016, that number had dropped to 88.4 million -- a steady, inexorable decline.
This has resulted in a precipitous drop in ad revenue at ESPN and its corporate parent company, Disney. This is what
is driving the next round of layoffs.
Few cable networks have ever been as consistently profitable as ESPN. Thanks to a wide variety of live sporting events and
an army of the more famous athletic analysts on television, the Disney subsidiary has been able to demand the highest
carriage fees from every cable company. Unfortunately for ESPN, however, the days of printing money may be coming to an end.
Ratings for ESPN’s flagship program, SportsCenter, have dipped ten percent. NFL Countdown is down thirteen percent, and
combined with the lack of World Cup programming and NASCAR events, viewership is collectively down ten percent when
compared to 2014. Some of that has to do with more Americans getting rid of their entire cable packages, but some of it
also has to do with viewers simply choosing alternate programming. According to Bloomberg, NBCSN and Fox Sports 1
have both experienced double digit gains in the last year.
In keeping with the loss in viewership, ESPN has eliminated hundreds of jobs in the last year, and executives elected to
part ways with some of the company’s franchise players, including Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann, Colin Cowherd and more.
No doubt those personnel loses cost the network some viewers, but the decisions are all part of ESPN’s overall strategy of
putting the brand ahead of any specific players, no matter how popular.