ESPN president John Skipper did a featured one-on-one interview to kick off the 17th annual NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference in New York Wednesday, and he pulled no punches when discussing the company’s critics. The general discussion about ESPN recently has involved their increasing rights payouts and decreasing subscriber revenue (leaving them with over $3 billion to make up annually), their parting with big names like Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd, Keith Olbermann and Jason Whitlock, and their September layoffs of up to 350 key personnel, suggesting the Worldwide Leader is facing some hard times, but Skipper said those are “false narratives”:
Despite declining numbers of cable subscribers to ESPN and recent layoffs of approximately 300 employees, Skipper said he “really likes the hand we have,” saying repeatedly the company has been assigned with “false narratives.” “We do not have a narrative problem. We don’t have a narrative of declining usage at ESPN, and we are not retrenching,” Skipper said, citing in part ESPN’s sports industry record digital metrics of more than 94 million people and 10 billion minutes of consumption in September, as well as ESPN’s status as the most-watched U.S. cable channel.
“We are adding viewers on other platforms to supplement our performance on TV. What we have is an internal narrative of continued dramatic success.” While Skipper called the recent layoffs “the most difficult week of my tenure,” he bristled sharply at the idea that the departures of personalities such as Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd and Keith Olbermann represent a talent drain for ESPN. Skipper particularly shot back at the suggestion that Simmons did not receive sufficient internal support and promotion for Grantland. “It is completely inaccurate to say that Bill Simmons and Grantland didn’t get enough support,” he said.
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Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
ABC Scores Most Watched NBA Saturday Primetime Game In 4 Years
“The game drew 3.7 million viewers.”
The Boston Celtics beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. While the game’s controversial finish left LeBron James and Patrick Beverly upset, executives at the Walt Disney Company had nothing but smiles thanks to the performance of ABC.
The game drew 3.7 million viewers. That means the Celtics’ win is the most-watched game in the ABC Saturday night prime-time window in the last four years. A February 2019 game between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors drew 4.1 million.
Boston also delivered the highest-rated game of the NBA season so far outside of the league’s stacked Christmas Day slate.
NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC is experiencing a nice uptick in viewership this season. Through the weekend, the Saturday night games are averaging over 3.4 million viewers according to an ESPN press release.
That number represents a 16% jump from last season. The edition of NBA Countdown that airs before the Saturday night game is having a good season as well. It’s average audience is up 3% to just under 1.5 million.
NHL Ratings on ESPN, TNT Down in 2nd Year
So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season.
Viewership totals from ESPN and TNT show NHL ratings have declined heading into the All-Star break, but there are some extenuating circumstances for the nearly 22% drop.
So far this season, games on ESPN and TNT are averaging 373,000 viewers, which is down from 478,000 last season. However, both channels have increased their linear television schedule, doubling from 27 games to 54.
ESPN has aired 18 games with an average of 402,000 viewers. In the same time period last year, the worldwide leader had only aired seven contests, but garnered 622,000 per game. None of ESPN’s games last season had aired on weekends, while the network has broadcast six games on Sunday this year alone. The 12 games ESPN has aired that weren’t on Sunday have averaged 491,000 viewers.
The 2023 NHL All-Star Game will air on ABC Saturday, and the network is hoping for a lift from last season. In 2022, ratings fell 38% from the previous All-Star Game on NBC, and hit the lowest total since 2009. The NHL Skills challenge saw its largest audience in a decade after airing on ESPN in primetime on a Friday evening. Nearly 1.1 million watched the skills challenge, a 30% increase compared to 2020.
At this time last season, TNT had aired 20 games. Through 36 games this season, the network has seen an average of 359,000 viewers. The network is helped by the 2023 Winter Classic, which took place at Fenway Park on Monday, January 2nd. The afternoon contest saw an audience of 1.78 million, up 31% compared to the previous year.
AFC Championship Game Delivers New Viewership High For CBS
53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI.
The AFC Championship Game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Cincinnati Bengals drew a massive audience for CBS.
53.1 million viewers tuned in to see the Chiefs’ controversial victory over the Bengals, making it the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LVI. Additionally, the event is the most-watched NFL Conference Championship Game since 2017.
CBS claims the game peaked with 59.3 million viewers and was also the most-streamed live sporting event in the history of Paramount+.
With an audience of 53.1 million, CBS concludes its NFL playoff coverage averaging 40.798 million viewers for each game. That leads all networks thus far. The 2022 NFL season was the most-watched regular season on CBS in the past seven seasons.