In 2013, ESPN had 99 million domestic subscribers, but this year they are down to just 88 million. ESPN disputes those numbers and insists that live streaming and other factors explain the cut in subscribers. That might have explained it if not for all of the other ESPN channels such as ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network. What do those three channels have in common? No liberal political commentary. Those three stations do not have huge losses like ESPN. Their numbers have remained basically flat.
Certainly, the cord-cutting phenomenon that has hit networks across cable television has a definite impact on ESPN. Though, that’s not the entire explanation for the network’s cratering subscriber base. ESPN Ombudsman Jim Brady, admitted that the network lurched way too far to the left in recent years, alienating many viewers.
There’s also evidence of that in these numbers. According to Deadline Hollywood, “Disney’s other sports channels fared better. ESPNU had 71 million subs, down 1.4%. ESPNEWS and SEC Network — not measured by Nielsen — were flat based on December data from SNL Kagan. The former had 70 million subs and the latter had 62 million.”
What do ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network all have in common? They are, by far, the least opinion-driven and ideological of all the ESPN channels. ESPN’s slate of uber-opinionated, radically leftist programs such as Around the Horn, First Take, Pardon the Interruption, His & Hers, and others all appear on ESPN or ESPN2, the channels which have seen the greatest decline.
ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network primarily feature sporting events, simulcast radio shows, or straight news reporting with very little opinion, or, at least very little political opinion. Those channels have either marginally declined or stayed flat.
If this trend continues for ESPN, the station could collapse by 2018. The question becomes, Will Disney, the owner of the ESPN networks demand that liberal opinion shows such as Around the Horn, First Take, Pardon the Interruption, His & Hers be cancelled?