ESPN's ratings have plunged far beyond the lower numbers generated simply by the lack of sports events.
ESPN continues to hemorrhage viewers, not due to a lack of sports amid the coronavirus pandemic, but because the network has become almost entirely political over the past few weeks.
Sports journalist and Fox Sports Radio host Clay Travis recently wrote that the network’s 41-year ratings low was not due to the coronavirus lockdown, but the network’s pivot to “24/7” politics. Writing as his website Outkick the Coverage, Travis explained that in the past several weeks, ESPN has become “more left wing than MSNBC and CNN combined” and “completely abandoned sports coverage.” He wrote that the network’s studio programming, SportsCenter, which he called “WokeCenter on steroids 24/7,” reached “full on crisis mode level awfulness”
“First Take” was the highest rated ESPN studio show all day, posting just 211,000 viewers. That was the 93rd highest rated program on all of cable. Putting those numbers into context compared to other shows airing the same day on cable: “Nick Cannon Wild and Out 15” on VH1 had 50% more viewers than ESPN’s top show. “Smuggler: Secret Stash” on National Geographic doubled First Take. Not to be outdone, “Craig of the Creek” on the Cartoon Network posted 200,000 more viewers. Hell, even “Jay Leno’s Garage” on CNBC soundly defeated First Take.
Jay. Leno’s. Garage.
As Travis explained, even though sports viewing is down all around from a lack of sports, ESPN’s ratings lows are something worse.
“There are many serious things going on in our country right now and the vast majority of sports fans know where to find news about serious things going on in the world. That’s why cable news ratings have skyrocketed. But sports fans don’t want their sports commentators to be weighing in on non-sports news on sports networks,” Travis wrote. “The ratings are clear about that. And the ratings are clear that sports fans just want to watch games as well. Twitter gets happy when athletes and sports commentators weigh in on non-sports topics, but Twitter, as always, isn’t the real world. It’s a distorted funhouse mirror carnival version of the real world. The data is clear: sports fans want sports.”