The worldwide leader in sports is still the king of the mountain – and none of its competitors are even close to knocking it off of its block. But ESPN is beginning to show signs of strain … and the network’s ongoing embrace of leftist ideology could exacerbate its unsustainable economics.
Over the next few weeks, ESPN will slash anywhere from 60-100 positions – its second major layoff this year. Back in April, the network slashed 100 mostly on-air personalities.
More layoffs are likely …
What’s happening? Fewer subscribers, fewer viewers and higher costs. Oh, and racist anchors like Jemele Hill – who just this week was busy tweeting about “climate gentrification.”
According to Nielsen, ESPN has lost an estimated 13 million subscribers since its mid-2011 peak (which corresponds to a $1 billion annual revenue loss).
While shedding subscribers, the network has also racked up huge new costs – both in personnel and programming. In addition to its eight-year, $15.2 billion deal to televise the National Football League (NFL)’s Monday Night Football game, the network’s nine-year, $12.6 billion deal for television rights to the National Basketball Association (NBA) has also failed to pay dividends.
Meanwhile, prime time viewership has been plunging – dropping by a whopping 19 percent in 2016. And that’s before the brunt of the NFL anthem protests hit this season.
This decline in viewership has translated into less advertising revenue. For example, during the first half of last year the network’s flagship newscast – SportsCenter – brought in $408 million in advertising. For the first half of 2017, that total has dipped to $305 million.
Which brings us back to Hill …
Obviously she’s not the only reason ESPN (or SportsCenter) is losing money … but she’s not helping, either.
“Change happens when advertisers are impacted,” Hill wrote.
Just what a struggling network needed, right?
Despite biting the hand that feeds, Hill somehow kept her job. Uber-liberal Disney CEO Robert Iger – a rumored 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and the ultimate boss of ESPN – supported the network’s decision to let her off with a slap on the wrist.
“I felt we needed to take into account what other people at ESPN were feeling at this time, and that resulted in not taking action,” Iger said last month of his decision.
The Borg-like will of the collective, in other words …
Bottom line? ESPN has gone “all in” for the far left – and done so at a time when both the network’s business model and business acumen are fading fast. That strikes us as incredibly short-sighted.
Our view? We’re not going to stop watching ESPN … but we have found ourselves watching much less of the network. For example, we honestly can’t remember the last time we watched SportsCenter. Or the NBA.
And we sure as hell will never watch Hill again …
ESPN needs to recognize its role in our society: To cover sports, not politicize them. Until it resumes the former and ceases the latter, we expect its viewership and revenue will continue to decline … deservedly so.
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