SBD/January 6, 2016/Research and Ratings

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

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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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