ESPN's Nine for IX documentary series has been struggling in the ratings department, and quite frankly, I'm puzzled. Heading into the sixth film in the series this evening, spotlighting former East German figure skater Katarina Witt, the viewership totals for the five documentaries have ranged from 311,000 to 460,000. To put those numbers in perspective, just one of the 30 for 30 branded documentaries has drawn under half a million viewers since the original batch of 30 aired: Goose, which drew 349,000 viewers and spotlighted the career of former Negro League player and Harlem Globetrotter Reece "Goose" Tatum.
There are several reasons I can think of for the documentaries struggling. One is the fact that they're airing in the summer, a notorious dead time for sports. Since the original run aired, none of the 21 30 for 30 films have aired in July and August. Of course, all nine of the Nine for IX films are scheduled for July and August, leading into the next six 30 for 30 films in the fall.
The second major reason I can think of for the ratings struggles is the subject matter of the documentaries. Breaking the subject of each film down to its lowest level, the five documentaries that have aired thusfar have focused on women's college basketball, tennis, diving, and the media. None of those topics really grab the interest of the general public like say, college football, the NFL, or something based in crime or scandal.
And the third reason I can think of for the struggling ratings is one that one that has really plagued most of the 30 for 30 films: the lead-in. Featuring a documentary after the Heisman presentation or pairing it with the NFL Draft or NCAA selection show will do a lot more for ratings than say, a two-hour live SportsCenter (as is the case with Tuesday evening's High Stakes).
It's disheartening to see viewers not tuning in to watch the documentaries, The stories being told are very compelling, and deserve to be known by a larger audience. Hopefully, they'll earn a higher degree of viewership once they all air and earn another life on Netflix and/or DVD.
Were they done independently of ESPN? I know the first 30 were, and they were really, really good. The last two I saw on Bo Jackson and NC State '83 were done by the four-letter network. They were just good at best.
Not to mention advertising? The only reason I knew about these films is because I follow ESPNW on twitter. I do not watch ESPN regularly. Maybe there is advertising on there, I don't know. But it seems like you could make a better attempt at letting people know that these films are available. I would think women would be interested in watching them. Promote these films in a way that your target audience will know about them.
I just think Bristol is a whole lot more concerned with sports related identity politics than the rest of the country. Didn't they just devote a week to the 40th Anniv of Title IX last year. ESPN is preoccupied with gender and race. Enough already.
I'm watching it. Witt still looks amazing in her 40s. I'm very interested with her career with the issues with the East German Government.
The further the "30 for 30" series gets away from sports, the less I like it...i.e. the Baltimore Band, Terry Fox, Little Big Men, Big Air...I likely won't be watching the one about the Hawaiian surfer that comes out. None of these 9 for 9s have piqued my interest and I'm actually rather surprised that ESPN trotted these out...know your audience.
Perhaps sad to say, but women are to sports what straight men are to porn...they're there, but people don't pay to watch them.
They're lead-in's are an issue I'm sure. Boring women's sports don't attract viewers even though I'm sure it's compelling. Unless it's something I HAVE to see, I'm not interested in watching ESPN at all.