What Happened to ESPN: The Decline

684 456 Tony Guo

What Happened to ESPN: The Decline

The lightbulb moment the founders of ESPN had back in 1979 when the company was founded was revolutionary to say the least. I mean, 24-hour sports, who wouldn’t want that? Back then, given the cable industry boom that was just around the corner, it was an idea whose time had come. Back then, there was a high demand for sports and ESPNs timing couldn’t have been any better. From then on, until 2011, ESPN caught on like a wild fire and had over 100 million subscribers at its peak in 2011. This is to be expected when you consider the hundreds of millions of televisions all over America. The success of ESPN was so impressive, it spread its reach to other areas of the world with a bunch of international channels. The wide variety of sports that ESPN had on offer from football and the NFL, to the NHL and even the MLS, it is no surprise that it had amassed so many subscribers. This is a far cry from current events that see ESPN having fallen on hard times, hemorrhaging subscribers by the day, with the subject matter experts over at runrex.com estimating the number at 10,000 subscribers lost per day on average. All this just begs the question; what happened to ESPN? Well, this article will look to take a look at what really was behind their decline.

One of the main reason that has been behind the decline of ESPN is their over-reliance on cable. Cable is not what it used to be and it is not the must-have it was when they were in their prime. The current era is full of cord cutters, consumers who had cable but decided to go of it, and cord nevers, those who have never had cable, nor did they see the need for it. The number of these group of people has been on the rise in the last couple of years and it has definitely affected ESPN’s numbers and led to their decline. Majority of their subscribers have opted for the cost-saving option of free-to-air television channels, while others prefer streaming sites such as Netflix. Their reliance on cable has definitely been a problem as this industry is no longer dominated by television as it was before, something that is analyzed in detail by the gurus over at runrex.com. This is not to say that demand for video content in sports has reduced; no, in fact, it has never been higher. Consumers now want their sports content fix at their fingertips and don’t want to have to wait until they get home so that they can get it. This is definitely one of the things that has led to their decline.

Another thing that has led to their decline is their content. Their content hasn’t been as compelling as it was in years passed and that has seen most of their staple shows, such as SportsCenter, take a massive hit as far as their ratings are concerned. You also have to understand that, when talking about sports video content, then you have to focus on the key demographic as far as it is concerned. This, as per the subject matter experts over at runrex.com, is the demographic of folks between the age of 18 to 34. The problem for ESPN was that this demographic felt that their content had gone stale and once they started to lose folks from this demographic, it was always going to be down from there. To give them their due, ESPN did try to change and adapt their content to try and stem this tide but it still wasn’t enough and such content never had the desired effect. It is safe to say that their content played a major role in their decline without any doubt.

The fact that they spend so big on rights fees also came back to bite them and it was definitely another reason behind their decline. They say that you have to spend money to make money and ESPN really took this to heart, to the point that they were spending money with no guarantee that they would make the money back immediately. Given that their best content was live sporting events, then they knew they had to ensure they carried all this sporting events. However, as we all know, and as explained in detail over at runrex.com, in order to get these events, you must pay up. They definitely did pay up, in fact they actually paid over the odds to get deals for the NBA and the NFL over the line. These deals were also for multiple years that meant that they were tied up with them with no out. In fact, the shortest deal of them all that they signed was the 11-year deal they signed with College Football Playoff which gives you an idea of how long the deals were. This deals were always set up to benefit the leagues such as the NBA and NFL and their players rather than ESPN itself and they paid the price for this. The fact that they lost a bunch of subscribers also means that they don’t have enough of a base to able to make back the money through subscription fees and they also can’t increase subscription fees as that would only make them lose they few subscribers they have remaining. This left them with a bad deal on their hands, and definitely contributed to their decline.

There are of course a lot more reasons that led to the decline of ESPN and you can learn more about them as well as more on other related topics by checking out the excellent runrex.com