ESPN is losing subscribers at an amazing rate – and we might know why.
In the last month, the sports network lost 555,000 subscribers. That’s on top of a loss of 621,000 subscribers the month before. By comparison, that’s 1.2 million people – a loss the size of the entire city of Phoenix.
This on top of constant losses month-over-month means that ESPN has lost about ten million subscribers in the last three years.
All cable networks have decreases in viewership. “Cable cutting,” as they call it, is on the rise. But the Entertainment Sports Network is losing subscribers at a much faster rate than anyone else, Breitbart reports.
Much of the blame, ESPN’s own ombudsman writes, might be the network’s ideological and political leftist tilt:
As it turns out, ESPN is far from immune from the political fever that has afflicted so much of the country over the past year. Internally, there’s a feeling among many staffers — both liberal and conservative — that the company’s perceived move leftward has had a stifling effect on discourse inside the company and has affected its public-facing products. Consumers have sensed that same leftward movement, alienating some.
Inside ESPN, however, some feel the lack of tolerance of a particular political philosophy is a problem.
“We’ve done a great job of diversity,” said longtime ESPN anchor Bob Ley. “But the one place we have miles to go is diversity of thought.”
Many ESPN employees I talked to — including liberals and conservatives, most of whom preferred to speak on background — worry that the company’s politics have become a little too obvious, empowering those who feel as if they’re in line with the company’s position and driving underground those who don’t.
There’s also plenty of evidence of that in these declining numbers. According to Deadline Hollywood, “Disney’s other sports channels fared better. ESPNU had 71 million subs, down 1.4%. ESPNEWS and SEC Network — not measured by Nielsen — were flat based on December data from SNL Kagan. The former had 70 million subs and the latter had 62 million.”
What do ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network all have in common? They are, by far, the least opinion-driven and ideological of all the ESPN channels. ESPN’s slate of uber-opinionated, radically leftist programs such as Around the Horn, First Take, Pardon the Interruption, His & Hers, and others all appear on ESPN or ESPN2, the channels which have seen the greatest decline.
ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network primarily feature sporting events, simulcast radio shows, or straight news reporting with very little opinion, or, at least very little political opinion. Those channels have either marginally declined or stayed flat.
That should tell us something.