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ESPN Ratings Decline As The Mobile Age Takes

Jason Barrett

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When Holly Holm delivered her vicious knockout against UFC champion Ronda Rousey last month, the highlight seemed perfect for ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

Yet by the time the sports network’s flagship news program showed images of the fight, many had already seen the clip on Reddit and commented on Twitter.

That’s the dilemma for ESPN and “SportsCenter,” the news and highlights show the network introduced to pay-TV audiences 35 years ago. While ESPN remains the dominant sports outlet on TV and the Web, and the single biggest profit contributor at Walt Disney Co., competition is eating into its audience. To adapt, the company is reinventing “SportsCenter” for mobile viewing and online sharing, adding new late and early morning editions.

“Our producers have spent a lot of time working with our talent to really think about which audience we’re seeing through the course of the day,” Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president for news, said in an interview. The show “is still relevant and meaningful to people. It’s a matter of where they are and how they consume it.”

One big change is set for February, when ESPN introduces a 7 a.m. edition of “SportsCenter.” The network will try to attract viewers on their way to school or work by encouraging them to watch on mobile devices, King said.

In September, Scott Van Pelt took over as anchor of a new late edition of “SportsCenter.” Van Pelt can compete with talk-show hosts like Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel, King said, and his show is experimenting with new segments, including one that shows highlights of plays that would be of keen interest to bettors. A recent ad urging fans to “end your day on a highlight” included a spot with a college student watching late at night on his tablet from the roof of a frat house.

Disney itself cast a light on the troubles at ESPN in August when the company cut its profit outlook, citing a drop in the homes that get the sports network. The announcement renewed investor concerns that consumers are dropping or cutting back on pay-TV services and sent media stocks tumbling.

ESPN’s ratings are another sign of the changes rattling the TV industry.

Live editions of “SportsCenter” are down 10 percent this year in total viewers, according to ESPN, while the Sunday pregame show “NFL Countdown” is down 13 percent. Overall, viewership has fallen 10 percent in 2015, though network executives say that’s really 4 percent excluding World Cup and NASCAR events that didn’t air this year.

Meanwhile, audiences are growing at the Fox Sports 1 and NBCSN, which are up 14 percent and 25 percent in prime-time, respectively, though both networks draw only a fraction of ESPN’s viewers, according to Nielsen data. For NFL games this season, ESPN’s ratings are down 3 percent while two broadcast networks, NBC and CBS, have gained, according to data supplied by the programmers. ESPN says that’s largely because it has aired one fewer Monday Night Football matchup.

Bristol, Connecticut-based ESPN has been in a belt-tightening mode. In October, the network eliminated about 300 positions worldwide. Over the past year, it has parted with several prominent personalities, including Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons, who says the number of people canceling pay-TV service caught ESPN by surprise.

“I don’t think they ever saw it coming. I really don’t,” Simmons said on his podcast last month. “They didn’t have a plan for this whole next generation of stuff.”

To read the rest of the article visit Bloomberg where it was originally published

Sports TV News

Pat McAfee Feels Good About His College Football MegaCast Debut

“I feel good going into the next one. I feel like we’ve learned from this first one,” he said.

Jordan Bondurant

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The College Football MegaCast featuring Pat McAfee and his daily YouTube show’s cast debuted on ESPN2 over the weekend, and McAfee is looking forward to the next edition.

On his show Monday, McAfee told co-host A.J. Hawk that he felt good about how the show went considering it was uncharted territory to be in.

“We had no idea how successful it would be,” McAfee said. “Like this is the first time we’re being judged in a different fashion. I don’t think we marketed it much, you know, because I don’t think we knew how it was gonna go.”

The alternate feed is being produced for ESPN by Omaha Productions, which is also responsible for the ManningCast which runs alongside the traditional Monday Night Football broadcast.

McAfee said this first show turned out to be a learning experience and that they started off on the right foot.

“I feel good going into the next one. I feel like we’ve learned from this first one,” he said. “We had no idea, it was very much of a roll of the dice. Going into the next one I think we’re gonna try and make it even grander and bigger, and I’m very excited for it.”

As for the style in which they covered the Clemson/N.C. State game, McAfee added that the giveaways and guest interactions added a lot of value.

“I think it’s the right way to watch a game, and to be honest I think it’s keeping us all invested as much and even more,” he said.

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Sports TV News

LA Clippers Sign New Contract with Bally Sports

The multi-year agreement will go into effect this season. Bally will carry 63 of the team’s 2022-23 regular season games.

Jordan Bondurant

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The Los Angeles Clippers will continue its relationship with Bally Sports, completing a new deal over the weekend to keep Bally as the team’s regional sports network.

The multi-year agreement will go into effect this season. Bally will carry 63 of the team’s 2022-23 regular season games. Additionally, 11 games will be carried by KTLA, giving the team some additional viewership reach. The remaining eight games will be broadcast on national television.

Brian Sieman will continue on as the play-by-play broadcaster for games, with Jim Jackson and Mike Fratello swapping the analyst chair. Jamie Maggio and Kristina Pink will be reporting.

According to the Los Angeles Times, all signs pointed to the team and the network hashing out a new contract.

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Sports TV News

ESPN’s NFL Programming Sees Big September Growth

For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

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NFL Studio

For ESPN, September has been a really strong month with their NFL programming.

Sunday NFL Countdown is averaging 1.4 million viewers per show thus far in 2022. That up 15% from 2021’s first three shows of the NFL season. The season premiere – Sunday, Sept. 11 – averaged 1.6 million viewers, tying the network’s best Week 1 audience for the show since 2016 and is up 35% year-over-year.

NFL Live experienced large growth too. The episode airing after the first NFL Sunday, on Monday September 12, averaged 664,000 viewers which beat every NFL Live episode last season, including the most-watched episode on 2021 (December 17) which grabbed 635,000 viewers.

Monday Night Countdown is averaging 1.3 million viewers for its two, non-staggered September episodes, which aired in its traditional timeslot (6-8 pm).

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