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  • ESPN's Primetime Down In '15, But Leads All Cable TV; MLB Net, FS1, NBCSN Set Records

    While ESPN’s viewership was down in primetime in ’15, the network showed the hold that live sports has in a declining cable TV landscape. ESPN averaged 2.15 million viewers in primetime last year, marking its lowest figure since ’08, but ranking No. 1 among all cable nets for the second time in a row. Last year was the first time ESPN held the top spot after ranking No. 3 from ’09-13 and No. 4 from ’07-08. While ESPN’s figure was down 8% from ’14, it was still 18% higher than Fox News in primetime, which was the No. 2-ranked network. Looking at total-day viewership, ESPN was the No. 7 cable network overall, with viewership down 11% from ’14. It also was ESPN’s lowest total-day figure since ’07.

    TOP CABLE NETWORKS IN VIEWERSHIP FOR '15
    PRIMETIME
    VIEWERS (000)
    TOTAL-DAY
    VIEWERS (000)
    ESPN
    2,148
    Disney Channel
    1,234
    Fox News
    1,825
    Nickelodeon
    1,231
    USA Network
    1,815
    Adult Swim
    1,120
    TBS
    1,796
    Fox News
    1,088
    Disney Channel
    1,713
    Cartoon Network
    1,005
    TNT
    1,713
    USA Network
    974
    Discovery
    1,547
    ESPN
    906
    HGTV
    1,498
    TNT
    905
    History
    1,486
    HGTV
    830
    AMC
    1,373
    Nick-At-Nite
    776
           

    RECORD PLAYERS: Several cable sports nets had record-setting years in ’15. FS1, NBCSN and MLB Network had record viewership in primetime and total-day. FS1, buoyed by increased college football audience, its first U.S Open, NASCAR Sprint Cup races and the FIFA Women’s World Cup, saw total-day viewership rise 25% from ’14. Primetime viewership also was up 17%. Meanwhile, NBCSN rode increases for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, F1, IndyCar and its first-ever Notre Dame football game to a 3% rise in total-day audience, with primetime viewership for the net up 22%. MLB Network’s record-setting viewership included a 15% rise in total-day and an 8% rise in primetime. On the Spanish language front, Univision Deportes had a solid ’15. Its primetime audience ranked higher than that of MLB Net, ESPNU and NBA TV. While Golf Channel was relatively flat in '15, the net finished strong. Total-day viewership was down 13% in Q1, but then the net saw records set in Q2 and Q3. Golf Channel also saw growth among Millennials, with total-day viewership among adults 25-34 up 50%, and primetime viewership in that demo up 17%. For Golf Channel's PGA Tour telecasts alone in '15, viewership among adults 25-34 was up 22%.

    ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: ESPN2 had its lowest viewership -- both primetime and total-day -- in at least a decade. The net saw primetime drop 7% from ’14, while total-day dropped 2%. ESPNU and ESPNews also saw declines in ’15. NBA TV saw double-digit percentage drops for both metrics in ’15.

    CABLE SPORTS NET PRIMETIME AUDIENCE
    NET
    '15 (000)
    '14 (000)
    '13 (000)
    '12 (000)
    '11 (000)
    ESPN
    2,148
    2,321
    2,210
    2,343
    2,342
    ESPN2
    436
    469
    489
    476
    541
    NFL Network
    398
    385
    406
    381
    285
    FS1*
    397
    340
    246
    202
    237
    NBCSN
    367
    300
    280
    244
    293
    Univison Deportes
    156
    106
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a
    MLB Network
    142
    132
    141
    106
    109
    Golf Channel
    124
    123
    142
    139
    152
    ESPNU
    115
    116
    117
    n/a
    n/a
    NBA TV
    109
    128
    118
    123
    80
    ESPNews
    91
    100
    105
    102
    95
    Fox Deportes
    60
    69
    73
    n/a
    n/a
    FS2*
    39
    23
    37
    40
    n/a
    beIN Sport
    21
    16
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a
    CABLE SPORTS NET TOTAL-DAY AUDIENCE
    NET
    '15 (000)
    '14 (000)
    '13 (000)
    '12 (000)
    '11 (000)
    ESPN
    906
    1,016
    975
    1,020
    1,037
    ESPN2
    269
    274
    277
    285
    310
    FS1*
    164
    131
    123
    121
    139
    NFL Network
    163
    164
    163
    152
    128
    NBCSN
    153
    148
    96
    104
    95
    Golf Channel
    101
    100
    110
    96
    91
    MLB Network
    82
    71
    68
    53
    49
    ESPNU
    56
    62
    61
    n/a
    n/a
    ESPNews
    55
    60
    65
    67
    61
    NBA TV
    51
    58
    55
    60
    38
    Univison Deportes
    50
    45
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a
    Fox Deportes
    28
    32
    36
    n/a
    n/a
    FS2*
    22
    15
    23
    21
    n/a
    beIN Sport
    17
    14
    n/a
    n/a
    n/a
     

    NOTES: * = Speed became FS1 on Aug. 17, 2013, and Fuel TV became FS2.

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