ESPN, ESPN2 Both up for the Quarter in Total Day, Prime Time


ESPN, ESPN2 Both up for the Quarter in Total Day, Prime Time

SportsCenter, First Take, PTI Lead Studio Show Growth

Young Audiences Keep ESPN atop Key Male Demos

Bolstered by increased viewership for marquee live events plus multiple editions of SportsCenter and other studio shows, ESPN viewership rose 7% in the third quarter (July 1 – September 29) compared to the year before, from an average of 624,000 viewers to 668,000 on a total day basis, according to Nielsen.  The increase in prime time was 8%, from an average of 1,444,000 to 1,556,000, and included all the key Adult and Male demo groups (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54).

For the quarter, ESPN2 was up 5% in total day (from 170,000 viewers to 179,000) and 5% in prime time (from 310,000 to 327,000).  The network was up for both time periods among Adults and Men 18+.

In addition, ESPN led the quarter among full-time cable networks for the six primary demo groups in total day, including Men 18-34 for at least the 20th consecutive third quarter.  In prime time, ESPN led the six groups, including Men 18-49 for at least a 20th straight third quarter and Men 18-34 for a 20th consecutive.

“Fans recognize our leading portfolio of events and studio shows and they turn to ESPN for the best in competition, highlights and discussion,” said Ilan Ben-Hanan, ESPN vice president, programming and acquisitions.  “As we move into our most-watched quarter of the year, it is incumbent upon us to keep innovating and trying new things to reward the viewers’ trust.”

Live Events Boost Viewership in the Quarter

A number of live events contributed to ESPN’s success in the quarter.

  • The US Open was up 14% on ESPN and 46% on ESPN2. Combined, the increase was 23% to an ESPN record for P2+.  In addition, ESPN’s Wimbledon coverage was up 32%.
  • Sunday Night Baseball was up 7% in the quarter.
  • Monday Night Football was up 7% in the quarter (three weeks, four games).
  • The NBA Summer League was up 35% on ESPN, including the most-viewed game ever.
  • On ESPN2, four Formula One races in the quarter were up 8% from 2018, including up 29% among Men 18-34 and 20% among Adults 18-49.

SportsCenter, Other Studio Shows with Continued Viewership Growth

The positive viewership momentum for SportsCenter and other ESPN studio shows in recent months continued in third quarter (all P2+):

  • In the quarter, Sunday NFL Countdown was up 14% and College GameDay was up 6%.
  • The 7 a.m. ET SportsCenter climbed 4% in the quarter including 8% in September.
  • Get Up continued its monthly streak of growth, now standing at seven straight, boosting the show to an increase of 9% for the quarter.  Between the 7 a.m. SportsCenter and Get Up, ESPN leads cable from 7 – 10 a.m. among men 18-34 and 18-49.
  • First Take also kept its monthly streak going to a sixth consecutive month of growth, helping the show grow its audience 7% for the quarter.  Its young audience keeps ESPN the leader on cable for all the key male demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) for the time slot.  In fact, it is the top network (cable or broadcast) with Males 18-34 from 10 a.m. – noon.
  • The noon SportsCenter grew 10% vs. the comparable quarter last year, including its fifth straight month of growth in September.  As with First Take, ESPN leads cable for the noon hour in the key male demos and leads all of television among Males 18-34.
  • Pardon the Interruption was up 6% for both the quarter and September.
  • The 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter was up 12% in September and ESPN leads cable for the hour among the key male demos.
  • September was also strong for late-night SportsCenter as the 11 p.m. show was up 6% and the 1 a.m. show was up 2%.  On the strength of these shows, ESPN is the leading network (cable or broadcast) from 11 p.m. – 2 a.m. across all key male demo groups.
  • The weekend SportsCenter AM continued its strong pace, growing 8% for the quarter and a fifth straight month in September.  With that performance, ESPN leads all of television 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 No. 1 network (cable or broadcast) among Adults 18-34.




Dave Nagle

As I write this on 11-11-21, it's now 35 years for me at ESPN, the only real job I’ve ever had. I joined merely to help with the upcoming America’s Cup in Australia. I was told it would be for three months at all of $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, Darlington, Indy 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, Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, my main areas are tennis, UFC, boxing, network-wide ratings (by month/quarter/year), and corporate communications documents, including fact sheets, chronologies, lists and nearly 35 of the Year in Review press releases. UPDATE EXACTLY ONE YEAR LATER: Today, November 11, 2022, I am retiring from ESPN -- 36 years to the day I began. As I ride off into the sunset – top down and E Street Radio blaring – I do so with so many wonderful memories, proud of my contributions and a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity. 
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