It turns out that insulting and demeaning half the population does not make for a winning business strategy. That realization, among others, form the set of new realities which confront ESPN as they consider that their leftist opinion programming may soon cost them their status as “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”
According to Broadcasting & Cable, a site which covers and analyzes news pertaining to the television industry, sports programming overall has taken a ratings hit this year. B&C reports, “Sports viewing, which has held up over recent years as ratings of other programming has eroded, is down just 1% so far this year, according to an analysis by Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group.
“With the football season over, basketball is dominating the sports scene, representing 36% of the sports hours viewed in the week ended March 5. Total viewing was up 10%, with college basketball up 10% and the NBA up 7%. Basketball’s good ratings have helped ESPN, which gets about half of all hoops viewing.”
However, while basketball viewing has helped ESPN’s numbers, their liberal commentary shows have not. B&C states, “Sports commentary shows like ESPN’s SportsCenter were down 7% in viewership. Ratings for ESPN were down 7%, and ESPN2 was down 34%, while Fox Sports 1 showed a 34% increase.”
It’s important to note that while ESPN2 has moved “First Take” and some other opinion programming over to ESPN, ESPN2 remains the home for some of the network’s longest running and most popular shows, such as “Mike & Mike,” “Around the Horn,” and “PTI.”
That bears mentioning, because there will likely be an attempt by ESPN to shrug off this data as people not wanting to watch “SportsCenter” anymore, since they can get their scores and highlights on their phones. However, with a 34% drop on a channel that carries most of their opinion heavyweights, that rational does not explain these numbers.
What does explain these numbers, especially with FS1’s numbers surging by the same exact number ESPN2’s are falling? “Around the Horn” features some of the most unhinged, liberal commentators ESPN has to offer. Bomani Jones, a guy who probably still thinks the Duke lacrosse team is guilty, once called Cam Newton’s statement that the country had moved past racism, a “bald-headed lie.”
Over on “PTI,” Tony Kornheiser all but begged Mark Cuban to challenge President Trump in 2020. And, these are some of the more tame examples.
Meanwhile on FS1, shows such as “Speak For Yourself,” with Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock took a far more critical view of events like the Colin Kaepernick protests than anyone on ESPN, and their network has grown. Not that Cowherd and Whitlock are conservatives, or card-carrying Republicans, but they’ve managed to hold debate and discourse while giving credence to the other side of the issue, and not insulting half their audience.
Other shows on FS1 have done that as well. ESPN might want to look into that.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn