What the hell is going on in Bristol, Connecticut? For decades now, many things have been going right in the home to ESPN, “the worldwide leader in sports.” But lately, it feels as if something’s off. While you can still tune in and see college football games, NBA games, and plenty of quick-quipping SportsCenter anchors, it’s not the same. Sure, the network is killing it in some respects, such as the 30 for 30 series. But something is also wrong — and the network’s numbers prove it.
Let’s start with the fact that its viewers are leaving en masse. Ratings are down. A full 50% of men, according to a survey from BTIG Research, would be willing to rid themselves of ESPN and have their $8 deducted from their cable bill. Yes, that’s how much you’re paying for one or two channels, by the way.
Disney, ESPN’s parent company, isn’t too happy either. The network has seen mass layoffs in recent months. And its continued troubles over the past few years mean Disney’s losing big bucks. Executives aren’t too optimistic that things are going to turn around either.
So what’s the problem? Why has everyone turned on ESPN over the past few years? The problems run pretty deep. Part of it is the programming. Part of it is rooted in changing tastes of viewers. And another part of it is the traditional distribution system — cable television — is being usurped by online streaming.
All of this can be overcome, of course, if Disney and ESPN are willing to fix what’s wrong with the network. And there are several things in need of fixing.