When ESPN first began using the moniker “The Worldwide Leader,” the end of that slogan was always supposed to be “in Sports.”
ESPN is certainly still “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” as its top competitors such as NBC Sports and Fox Sports are still miles behind the network in terms of viewers and ratings.
But, much to new company president Jimmy Pitaro’s malaise, ESPN can also claim the dubious honor of being “The Worldwide Leader in Lost Subscriber Revenue” for the month of April.
ESPN lost a staggering 500,000 subscribers in April, per Outkick the Coverage, continuing its worrisome trend of hemorrhaging subscribers.
Of note, this bad news is coming after ESPN had a brutal 2017. The company saw not one but two rounds of mass layoffs. Viewership fell a stark 7 percent. Public sentiment swung hard against ESPN, particularly as the company continued to inject politics into sports.
Any hope that a new calendar year would remedy what ails ESPN have clearly been dashed.
ESPN: -500K households
FS1: -328K households
Golf Channel: -505K
NFLN: -842K (Comcast kicked it up a tier with the Fox TNF news)
— SportsTVRatings (@SportsTVRatings) April 30, 2018
Now, at first blush, ESPN’s loss in households doesn’t seem that bad, especially when compared with its peers.
In fact, just in terms of raw households lost, ESPN came out better than the Golf Channel and NBC Sports Network, while being significantly better off than the NFL Network.
To be fair, the NFL Network’s massive subscriber loss is due in no small part to being bumped off of Comcast’s most popular cable package tier.
But back to ESPN. Despite suffering a more modest subscriber loss than some of its peers, the figures belie the most important aspect of losing subscribers — subscription fees.
ESPN is by far the most expensive cable channel of the aforementioned list.
For comparison, the NFL Network makes roughly $1.20 a month per subscriber. So with some rudimentary math, the NFL Network, which is losing a jarring 842,000 households, is losing about $12 million in annual subscription revenue.
Extrapolated over the year, FS1, arguably ESPN’s biggest direct competitor, is losing nearly $4 million a year.
ESPN, on the other hand, rakes in massive monthly revenue per subscriber. “The Worldwide Leader” makes nearly $8 a month per subscriber. Over the course of the year, that’s a whopping $48 million.
That $48 million is four times what NFL Network is losing, despite that channel losing far more households, and it’s 12 times what ESPN rival FS1 lost. Ouch.
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