Update: ESPN's Ratings Down 9 Percent in Prime Time in Third Quarter

In a September 23 post ("Impending Layoffs at ESPN Aren't Only About the 'Media Landscape'"), I argued that ESPN's impending decision to lay off hundreds of employees is at least partially due to its determination to stuff political correctness down viewers' throats.

I noted that the network's ratings suffered a nearly 30 percent decline from August 2014 to August 2015 — a sea change which begged for an explanation beyond cable industry turmoil. A commenter observed that the network's ratings were up during a recent week in September, so I said I would look at ratings for entire third quarter when they became available. ESPN's primetime audience loss spread over the entire quarter was over 9 percent — a result nowhere near as awful as August alone, but certainly nothing to crow about:

ESPNq32015vs2014

(Sources: Q3 2015; Q3 2014)

Near double-digit customer losses would usually lead to layoffs in most industries, so ESPN's anticipated move in light of the above result is hardly surprising.

At the time of my original post, I referenced an item by John Nolte at Breitbart on the "cord-cutting" phenomenon, wherein people are abandoning cable and satellite services and either moving to streaming services or ad hoc Internet viewing. While high cost and general disgust or at least disappointment with many cable channels have to be considered important elements, it seems fair to say that ESPN's left-slanted sports coverage is a consideration in many of these cord-cutting decisions.

Cord-cutting has probably affected ESPN as much as any cable network. That's because, according to Nolte, the network receives an average of $6.61 per month per cable subscriber. This rate is a holdover relic from when the network was considered untouchable, and the only credible cable sports alternative available. Rough math found at the original post indicates that cord-cutting may have ESPN as much $250 million of its $7 billion-plus revenue base.

Overall, though, it's clear that my original estimate 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'" was a significant overstatement. While the real answer is much lower, it's clearly still noticeable — and we're only a few months past several of the network's most outrageous moves.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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