USA Today Sports

Estimates show ESPN, and nearly all sports networks, are bleeding subscribers this summer

Alex Reimer
August 21, 2018 - 11:40 am

ESPN continues to bleed subscribers. Awful Announcing obtained the Nielsen cable coverage estimates for July and August, and the numbers aren’t pretty for the WorldWide Leader.

According to Nielsen, ESPN has lost an estimated 290,000 subscribers over the last two months. Those numbers outpace NBC Sports Network (down 224,000) and FS1 (down 147,000). Of course, ESPN still has the most subscribers among its competition (85,895,000). 

These numbers indicate the cord-cutting phenomenon will only continue to gain more traction with time. All but three sports channels –– NFL Network, MLB Network, BEIN Sport –– have lost subscribers this summer. 

But overall, the numbers are even bleak for those stations. MLB Network and NFL Network are still down 566,000 and 712,000 subscribers, respectively, since May. MLB Network has lost more than 6.5 million customers since February 2017, which is the largest share among all sports channels.

As we’ve outlined numerous times before, ESPN’s business woes are about the landscape of cable TV more than anything else. In recent years, cable companies have gone to a la carte systems, allowing customers to choose their own channels. Due to ESPN’s exorbitant rights fees, subscribers are forced to pay increasingly large sums of money to carry the network in their packages. For those who aren’t diehard sports fans, the price might not be worth it, especially considering all of the other streaming options out there.

New ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro keeps talking about his desire to shift the network away from politics and its left-leaning perception. But it’s apparent ESPN’s problems go far deeper than its content.