Impending Layoffs at ESPN Aren't Only About the 'Media Landscape'

Word on the street is that ESPN is planning to lay off "200 to 300" employees in the coming months.

The go-to euphemism surrounding the impending layoffs, according to Variety's Brian Steinberg, is "the changing media landscape," primarily the "cord-cutting" phenomenon. In July, the Big Lead blog, in discussing Keith Olbermann's expected departure from ESPN, explained that "millennials are eschewing expensive cable TV bills and streaming everything online." While that might explain flat viewership or even a modest decline, cord-cutting is only a minor part of the problem. Someone needs to explain why ESPN's ratings have fallen by a stunning 30 percent in the past 12 months.

In August 2014, ESPN came in fifth in prime time with 1.631 million viewers. In August 2015, the formerly unstoppable sports juggernaut was ninth, with nearly a half-million fewer viewers:


The situation in the full-day metric is just as bad:

  • 24 hours, August 2014 — 10th place; 752,000 viewers
  • 24 hours, August 2015 — 15th place; 524,000 viewers (down 30 percent in 12 months)

John Nolte at Breitbart has explained how "cord-cutting" has affected ESPN financially (bolds are mine):

For every cable and satellite subscriber, ESPN receives $6.61 per month, or nearly $80.00 per year. Whether you watch ESPN or not, if the left-wing network is part of your cable package, that’s how much money  YOU are giving ESPN to spread its left-wing gospel.

It’s built into your cable bill. And due to this racket, ESPN grosses over $7.3 billion per year.

And there’s nothing you can do about it, except ...

Cut your cable cord. This is what 3.2 million Americans have done over the last year or so.

... ESPN is poisoning 7.2% fewer U.S. households.

Nolte's numbers tell us that the 3.2 million decline in cable and satellite subscribers translates to a $254 million revenue loss ($6.61 x 12 x 3.2 million), or about 3-1/2 percent of ESPN's gross revenues.

That's all fine, except it doesn't explain why EPSN has lost only 7.2 percent of its subscriber base while losing 30 percent of its viewers (in turn, surely affecting ad rates, increasing the hemorrhaging in revenues).

Here's how. The network has become so insufferably politically correct that it's turning off viewers who just want scores and highlights while being entertained along the way. Such people are going elsewhere: to their local TV and radio stations, Fox Sports, the Sporting News, and other outlets.

Here are just three recent examples of ESPN's in-your-face treatment of apolitical sports enthusiasts:

  • Curt Schilling's suspension from Major League Baseball broadcasts and analysis for comparing the percentage of Muslims who are extremists to the analogous percentage in Germany in the 1930s in a personal tweet — and then having the temerity to defend himself, insisting that "I did not, and will not apologize for the content of the tweet."
  • Its saturation coverage of football player Michael Sam, the openly homosexual football player who failed to make the cut in the NFL and walked away from the game after a brief attempt to play in the Canadian Football League.
  • Its decision to give its annual "Courage Award" to Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, the 1976 Olympic decathlon winner who has decided to undergo a sex change — passing up genuine profiles in courage like the late Lauren Hill and Noah Galloway. The network admitted that the selection of Jenner was based in culture and politics and not courage as normal people define it: "... we are proud to honor Caitlyn Jenner embracing her identity and doing so in a public way to help move forward a constructive dialogue about progress and acceptance."

There's only so much of this garbage sports fans will tolerate before going elsewhere. Based on the numbers (30 percent decline in viewership vs. 7.2 percent decline in cable subscribers), it's reasonable to claim that three-quarters of the network's 12-month decline is due to the network's adherence to and intensely irritating proselytizing on behalf of "left-wing gospel." It's safe to say that the network will see more bleeding if it insists on continuing down that path.

Cross-posted at

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