ESPN Displayed Cable Strength in 2018, Quarter


ESPN Displayed Cable Strength in 2018, Quarter

  • ESPN Leads Cable in Key Male Demos for 22nd Straight Quarter, 13th Straight Year
  • ESPN, ESPN2 Lead Cable Sports Nets among Key Male, Adult Demos
  • ESPN Airs Most of Cable’s Most-Watched Programs, Top Nine, 18 of Best 20
  • ESPN, ABC Combine to Win the Night with Sports 60 Times in 2018


Continuing historic streaks, ESPN led full-time cable television networks among the key male demographic groups for the 22nd consecutive quarter and the 13th straight year (since 2006).  Among cable sports networks, ESPN2 was second among Men 18-34 and 18-49 to ESPN as it has been each and every year since its 1993 debut.

Overall in 2018, ESPN aired cable’s nine most-viewed shows and 18 of the top 20.  (15 minutes or longer, January 1 – December 30)

On 60 occasions in 2018 – more than once per week, ESPN or sports programming on ABC provided advertisers the biggest audience of the night among Adults 18-49 across television.  That number was the most of any network group.  Among Men 18-49, the number was 83, also the most in the industry by a wide margin.

Sport-Specific Notes this Quarter

  • Monday Night Football was once again cable’s most-watched series for the year with a resurgent season, an 8% increase in audience, the biggest increase of any of the league’s network partners. The audience was ESPN’s highest since 2015 and included its highest game rating since 2015 (Chiefs at Rams).  ESPN won the night across broadcast and cable every week in overall audience (P2+), households and in all the key male and adult demos.
  • The NBA’s opening week was the best in four years, and the five-game Christmas slate across ABC and ESPN was the most-viewed since 2011. For the NBA season to date, ESPN has aired seven of cable’s top 10 games by audience size, including its highest-rated non-Christmas regular season game in four years and two on one night, Thanksgiving Eve.  The October 10 matchup of Golden State and the L.A. Lakers is ESPN’s highest-rated and most-watched NBA pre-season game of all time (1.3 rating, 1.98 million viewers).
  • College Football on ESPN/ESPN2: ESPN once again set the pace among all cable networks, airing the 17 most-watched regular-season cable games.  Combined with ESPN2, the networks aired 46 of the top 50 and 83 of the top 100.  Also, College GameDay was up 3% including its second-most-watched show in seven years.  In addition, the Heisman Trophy Presentation earned its biggest rating since 2015.  For bowl, New Years Six and College Football Playoff information:  here.
  • Crawford vs. Benavidez Packs a Punch: The Welterweight Championship on ESPN in October was the most-watched and highest-rated boxing match on TV in 2018, broadcast or cable.  For the year, ESPN aired three of the five highest-rated bouts.




Dave Nagle

It was 33 years at ESPN for me as of November 2019 (the only job I’ve ever had) after joining merely to help with the America’s Cup for three months at a robust $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals and Indy 500; Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, in addition to overseeing the Fan Relations, Archives and, my main areas are tennis, ratings, and corporate communications documents, including ESPN’s history and growth.
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