Bad news in Stamford, CT. Disney, the parent company of ESPN, confirmed in a regulatory filing on November 25 that ESPN had lost three million subscribers over the last year and lost seven million subscribers since that same day in 2013. They also warned that the sports network could continue to lose subscribers. As of October 3rd, the network had a total of 92 million total subscribers.
The average ESPN subscriber pays $6.61 per channel, per month, which means that ESPN has lost around $550 million in subscriber revenue a year since 2013. Yikes! This would help explain why the network has been laying off many. Back in July we knew that ESPN was losing subscribers, but the extent of subscriber loss wasn’t known until a few days ago when the network made the staggering reveal. Disney CEO Bob Iger had downplayed what he said was a “modest subscriber loss” but seven million in two years is far from modest.
Now mind you, the Cable industry as a whole has started to see a mass exodus of subscribers over the last couple years, with TV streaming services becoming more popular, but lets take a deeper look at the network itself and how it’s become over the top and downright repulsive at times through the years.
At one time you could turn on ESPN and get all of the news from the sports world that you could handle, while the programs were anchored by respectable broadcasters like Charley Steiner, Stuart Scott, Linda Cohn, Bob Ley and Dan Patrick. Now, ESPN has become more of a soap opera network, where they fill their programming up with shows that have special cartoonish like characters on it, like on First Take with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith. As if it’s not bad enough that they have their own show, ESPN likes to bring them on for guest spots on shows like sportcenter, which at one time was legitimate programming.
ESPN at one time allowed the sporting events to do the talking for them, now they allow these characters to run the station in hopes of getting a rise out of the viewers. For example, Stephen A. Smith is as ignorant as there gets, but somehow he’s allowed to spew his irrational venom, without fear of losing his job.
Like the time he mocked Bears quarterback, Jay Cutler, on Twitter after Cutler had to leave the game with a concussion.
OMG! Did y'all here the terrible news? Jay Cutler had to leave the game — after throwing an INT! Awww! I hope he's okay:/). #WasteOfTimeQB
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) September 20, 2015
Or how about his comments on First Take about women provoking men in domestic situations.
“Now you got some dudes that are just horrible and they’re going to do it anyway, and there’s never an excuse to put your hands on a woman. But domestic violence or whatever the case may be, with men putting their hands on women, is obviously a very real, real issue in our society. And I think that just talking about what guys shouldn’t do, we got to also make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to make, to try to make sure it doesn’t happen. We know they’re wrong. We know they’re criminals. We know they probably deserve to be in jail. In Ray Rice’s case, he probably deserves more than a 2-game suspension which we both acknowledged. But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don’t think that’s broached enough, is all I’m saying. No point of blame.”
Smith would get a minor suspension from ESPN for that, due to the rightful backlash that he received from the comments. Do you think Smith learned his lesson? Smith would get his chance to show the world that his apology from the aforementioned comments were in fact sincere, when the Greg Hardy mess happened this year.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) October 27, 2015
Are you kidding me? I guess he didn’t learn anything. Oh wait, 12 days later he took to Twitter again to reverse course.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) November 10, 2015
Really? Visuals matter my ass. If I even hear that a man beats a woman, I automatically know that it’s a disgrace. I don’t even have to know what the provocation was, or even if there was any. But, guess what? He’s still on ESPN, so I guess he’s getting them the attention that they want.
Enough about that scumbag Smith. Perhaps another reason that the network has gone downhill, is the network’s constant pimping out they do of their business dealings with the Daily Fantasy Sports site, DraftKings. Prior to the DFS scandal , ESPN was incorporating Draftkings in just about every program it had, with the pom poms being held mainly by Adam Schefter and Matthew Berry (though Berry being a fantasy guy is more understandable).
And when Schefter isn’t on the sideline cheering Draftkings on, he’s off doing some nice reporting for the NFL at times. Though, his standards were called into question earlier this year, when he tweeted out medical charts for Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants, who blew parts of his hands off in a fireworks accident.
That seemed way out of bounds to me (and millions of other normal human beings), but again, what do I know? Schefter wasn’t suspended for the incident, so he must’ve done something that ESPN is proud of.
I remember when watching certain sports programming meant something, but it seems that once ESPN gets their paws on it, it becomes less relevant. For instance, when Monday Night Football was on ABC, it felt special. Whether it was listening to Al Michaels, Frank Gifford or John Madden – it just felt right. From 2006, when it moved to ESPN, to now with Mike Tirico and John “I love every player ever” Gruden, it’s lost all of its steam. From the games they choose to the aforementioned commentators, it makes for bad TV. [Ed. note: I think they’re hamstrung by NBC’s elevation to being the NFL’s main channel, but I still understand the point.]
The same goes for the BCS Championship Games, which are now the BCS Playoffs. At one time, it was something to look forward to. But no matter how good the game, something feels off when the ESPN stamp is on it.
What about when you would hear this theme song on Sundays?
And now we have this for ESPN/ABC basketball…
It’s just lacking some oooommmphh!
Now I’m not saying that these things are the main reasons for the steep subscriber decline for ESPN because realistically times have changed. Business models need to change, as the streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, the WWE Network, etc… become more mainstream. But perhaps, programming content, people you employ and coming across like a money hungry business should all be considered as you think about coming up with a new business model. Maybe ESPN is losing subscribers because they’re trying to force feed their viewers their agenda, which viewers are flat out rejecting at this point. Clearly, with this steep decline of subscribers, one could certainly make that assumption.
I’m not saying that ESPN is on life support by any means, but it is certainly time for the higher-ups at the network to re-evaluate just what in the heck is actually going on to cause this decline.