Ever since SBJ reported the numbers of ESPN's Q2 ratings reaching multi-year lows and being down by almost one third, the spin has come faster and thicker than any great political campaign. Detractors of ESPN see it as a sign of Bristol's crumbling empire, especially with the arrival next month of Fox Sports 1. Then there's supporters of ESPN and ESPN PR that are quick to call it a blip on the radar and a fluke occurrence. You know something hits close to home when ESPN becomes self-aware and officially responds to a news story about themselves. That happened with a response to the ratings posted yesterday on its Front Row website.
ESPN says the low Q2 ratings are a "rare aberration" and most all of the blame can be placed on the NBA Playoffs not having as high a numbers (translation: we were stuck with the Spurs instead of the Heat for the Conference Finals) and also the fact that the Confederations Cup didn't do as strongly as Euro 2012 for the network:
The reason for the drop? It is largely attributable to the end of 2012’s NBA lock-out shortened schedule being particularly strong.
You might recall the end of the season last year was back-loaded with a big increase in highly rated games (23 over a month in 2012 versus eight in 2013). This was combined with fewer Conference Finals contests (seven from the Eastern Conference in 2012 compared to three in the 2013 Western Conference). The lack of major market teams’ appearances on ESPN — in 2012 the Lakers and Heat combined for 11 ESPN appearances but just two in 2013 — also factors in.
Boston was featured in 10 2012 playoffs games but only two in 2013, resulting in fewer marquee players in marquee cities to drive viewership. In all, ESPN had 31 fewer NBA games, which not only affected game ratings but also hurt studio shows that routinely get a post-game lift.
Additionally in 2012, ESPN benefitted from 21 Euro Championship matches. This year, ESPN had the Confederations Cup, but it was only about half as many matches with lesser national interest.
“Last quarter was a rare aberration and we expect our demographic delivery to return to normal levels in the second half of 2013,” said ESPN Senior VP of Research and Analytics, Artie Bulgrin.
I'm reminded of the quote about lies, damned lies, and statistics that certainly applies in this case. What's the truth about ESPN's declining ratings? It's impossible to say at this point because we don't have all the numbers. Without the data from ESPN's 24/7 operation we can't know for sure what it all means. We do know last quarter ESPN's non-NBA programming averaged 632k viewers, down from 720k the year before. Yet, ESPN doesn't release data for SportsCenter or its studio shows that constitute the majority of programming hours. Are those sources of significant decline or is it other live events? Right now we just have a few pieces of the puzzle. Until that day comes, all that's left is speculation over just how worried ESPN should be about their current ratings.
ESPN is for little kids. Adults who want challenging and thoughtful analysis should not watch ESPN. You are much better on CBS Sports, NBC Sports, FOX Sports, the League Networks or simply browsing the internet.
There's been a long-term trend, of people, in the current economic climate, of simply not having the time to follow and spend money on all of the major sports. People pick a sport or two, and only follow that. Go to NFLN or MLBN or NBCSN, watch briefly, and then go to bed. The all-encompassing jock-culture of ESPN doesn't fit well with the reality of most sports fans' lives.
The other problem is that they've bet the farm on a few sports and the big coastal markets, to the exclusion of others. The reality of the NBA is that it's a celebrity-driven league. It's like the Kardashians for young men; it's just something to tweet about. And once the interest is gone (it happens to all celebrities), or they're not dominating the playoff bracket, everybody forgets about it. Oh, and they've totally reamed college sports.
It's probably somewhere in-between. There is a slight decline going, but the Heat in 2012Q2 and not in 2012Q3, plus Euro exacerbated it.
10 Reasons why ESPN's ratings are way down
People want highlights not debate
Most ESPN experts are LOSERS Herm, Mangini etc ,even Dickie V never won a thing
America TOLERATES soccer
Most people don't care about the NBA until playoffs
ESPN HATES hockey and a lot of people love hockey or at least enjoy a few highlights
Only PTI is a good show , the rest of the afternoon programming is garbage
Most of the newly hired announcers in last 10 years belong on E or Al Jeezera
EVERYONE is sick of Lebron
Baseball and football fans now have their own networks to watch ( as well as every other sport have their own network)
ESPN got rid of people with real opinions like Jason Whitlock
You mention that you don't know what a lot of ESPN's ratings are because "they don't release them". I would have thought you'd know better than to blindly restrict yourself to what ESPN publishes, but: sonofthebronx.blogspot.com has been posting ratings for EVERY SINGLE PROGRAM on not only ESPN, but pretty much every Nielsen-rated sports network that isn't ESPNEWS or owned by Fox (hopefully that changes when FS1 starts). Seriously, there's more data there than you'll know what to do with, and that's not getting into all the other places sports ratings are reported.
I mentioned this in another post but why is First Take on for 2 hrs. then repeated and then they have " A Best of First Take"? I think your answer is right there. I agree with Keena30 about re-airing games. SportsCenter isn't needed as much anymore. You could have SportsCenter from 5am-8am, then maybe, maybe, a noon show if there is any developments and then the traditional 6pm show and 11pm show.
You can use stats to show that a hippo would make a great racehorse, too, but I would not take him to Churchill Downs for the Derby...
I don't think they're overhyping the NBA, they have a TV contract and they want to renew it with the league. Besides a lot of the big games are on ABC anyway.
With that said, I think ESPN should be VERY worried, and I think no matter how they spin it, they are.
Sportscenter's daytime ratings are dropping, it's more filler now, they'd be better off replaying games or PTI and ATH repeats or even College Football Live and NFL Live repeats. I mean we don't want to hear about Tebow 24-7, and not a lot of people want to see wall to wall Aaron Hernandez coverage, there are other places to go to for that.
I also think that cramming guys like Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, and Colin Cowherd down our throats is turning a lot of us off. We don't want to see Cowherd on Mike and Mike, First Take is now the Skip/StephenA Who Can Scream Louder show like I've posted before.
If this keeps up and ESPN's ratings keep sinking, with NBCSN getting traction and if FS1 can show good alternate programming (outside the live sports), ESPN will have no choice but to change their way of thinking.
The coverage of sports is becoming lackluster. If its not football season, it seems this network just finds stories to cram down our throats we as sports fans could careless about. I knew this ratings drop would happen sooner or later. Got better things to watch than what they bring to the table sometimes.
I'm not a huge fan of ESPN, but NBA ratings and popularity are why they cover and pay for the NBA. Simple as that. Don't project your NBA hate to everybody else. Plenty of people watch. You're not the center of the universe.
There is the existing problem of the network overhyping the NBA. There are superstars in the league and some compelling storylines during the course of the NBA Finals, but most of the storylines aren't all that interesting. There is no suspense. The games plod along ... and both the season and postseason are excessively long. Year in and year out there are only 2-3 teams that seem capable of winning a championship. Viewer interest in the NBA is lukewarm, but the on-air personalities and the decision-makers behind the scenes at ESPN seem to think otherwise. I'm not sure what the answer is...but a subtle scale-back on NBA coverage might be worth exploring. The NFL Network is seeing an uptick in ratings as well as the MLB Network. The NBA Network saw no change at all. That might be an indication that ESPN is overblowing its coverage of that league.
Their choosing a given team -- all the better if it is in the NY or Boston market -- and promoting it over all others has made ESPN must-not-watch TV. Hopefully NBC and Fox can make times even worse for them.
I get tired of not covering sports. The tiger woods car wreck, the Hernandez ordeal, etc. I don't want the drama, I want highlights. And the coverage of women's basketball is ridiculous. I thought nbc sports job was to cover sports nobody cared about.
Maybe everyone is finally sick and tired of them only concentrating on 1/4 of the population in the US (East Coast) primarily New York and Boston? Agree with both points about First Take the NBA (which has sucked since a certain few players named Bird, Johnson, and Jordan retired! And there has been no one to replace them and even then the NBA trying to force feed the viewing public Shaquelle O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, and then last but not least LeBron James. And First Take doesn't even deserve one opine from me! NFL and College Football seems like the right elixir for what ails them in Late June - Early August!
Yes, everyone is just following one sport on their respective network, which is why the lowest-rated program on ESPN beats all but the biggest events on ESPN2 (which in turn beats just about any other sports network), and I'm sure ratings for sports events are declining so precipitously as people choose to just follow one, because you couldn't possibly be talking out of your ass and generalizing your own tendencies to "people" in general without having to actually justify it.
@DonSmale This is one of the greatest comments I've ever read
@morganwick Butt hurt NBA-lover?
Not that big a fan of the NBA, actually; there may be some truth to the second half of your statement. Just stating the facts. If you have actual evidence to back up your description of people's sports viewing habits instead of baseless speculation/wishful thinking, I'd love to see it.