ESPN’s Summer Stays Hot: Viewership Rises 8%, 17% in Prime Time in August


ESPN’s Summer Stays Hot: Viewership Rises 8%, 17% in Prime Time in August

SportsCenter, First Take, Get Up Lead Studio Show Growth

Bolstered by increased viewership for multiple editions of SportsCenter and other studio shows, ESPN viewership rose 8% in August compared to the year before, from an average of 451,000 viewers to 486,000 on a total day basis, according to Nielsen.  This follows a June where ESPN experienced a 5% increase and an 18% increase in July.

The increase in prime time was a robust 17%, from an average of 997,000 viewers to 1,166,000.  The increase among adults 18-34 was 18% and among adults 25-54 it was 26%.

Looking at performance in demos, the ESPN increase led to the network leading all full-time cable networks for total day in all the key male demos – 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 – and adults 18-34 and 18-49.  For men 18-49, it was the 14th consecutive August that ESPN was the leader.  In prime time, ESPN also led among the three male groups.

“We are focused on keeping all of our studio shows on top, led by our flagship SportsCenter, and it’s rewarding to see audience increases month after month,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president and executive editor, production.  “That’s been the ESPN way for 40 years and a mantle we assume gladly to keep ESPN in the center of sports fans lives.”

SportsCenter, Other Studio Shows with Continued Viewership Growth

The positive viewership momentum for SportsCenter and other ESPN studio shows in recent months continued in August:

  • Viewers continue to wake up with Get Up, with the show increasing for the sixth straight month.  The program increased 4% in August vs. a year ago.  ESPN is the #1 cable network during the Get Up time slot (8-10 a.m. ET) among M18-34 and M18-49.


  • First Take raised its streak to five consecutive months, with a solid 9% increase in the month of August.  Driven by First Take, ESPN is the #1 cable network from 10 a.m.-noon across all key male demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54).  In fact, it is the #1 network (cable or broadcast) with M18-34.


  • The early afternoon again saw success, as the noon SportsCenter grew 6% vs. the comparable daypart last year – the fourth straight monthly increase.  NFL Live also increased 5% in August.  Thanks to the noon SportsCenter, ESPN is the #1 cable network from noon-1 p.m. among M18-34 and M18-49.


  • In late afternoon, High Noon was up 2% compared to the time slot a year ago and Around The Horn saw a gain of 5%, climbing for the fourth consecutive month.


  • The late-night editions of SportsCenter showed growth, with the midnight edition rising 14% and the 1 a.m. show up 4%.


  • On the weekend, SportsCenter AM showed strong growth once again – gaining 5% in August, the fourth  consecutive month with an increase.  Gains on the weekend came from both the Saturday (+2%) and Sunday (+10%) editions.  With that performance, ESPN leads cable on weekends from 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. across all the key male demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54).  It is also the #1 network (cable or broadcast) among M18-34.




Dave Nagle

It was 32 years at ESPN for me as of November 2018 (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.