ESPN Tops Cable Networks in Key Demos in 2019


ESPN Tops Cable Networks in Key Demos in 2019

Two Decades atop Delivery of Valuable Male Audience

SportsCenter, Other Studio Shows Lead Competition; Morning Shows Sparked by Football News

In 2019, fourth quarter and in December, ESPN maintained its leadership position among cable networks in delivering the valuable young male audience.

For 2019 (December 31, 2018 – December 29, 2019):

  • ESPN aired cable’s biggest 10 audiences and 13 of the top 14.
  • In Total Day, ESPN ranked as the #1 full-time cable network among Men and Adults 18-34, 18-49, and 25-54.  This marks the sixth straight year that ESPN has claimed the top spot for all six of those demos, and the 14th straight year of being #1 among the three male demos.  Among total viewers, ESPN ranked third, behind only FOXNC and MSNBC.
  • In prime time, for the sixth straight year, ESPN led cable among Men and Adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54. This marks the 18th consecutive year ESPN has been #1 among those male demos.
  • In addition, in 2019 ESPN “won the night” among all networks – broadcast and cable – 47 times. In another 23 instances, ABC won the night with sports programmed and produced by ESPN.
  • Throughout the year, many events enjoyed audience increases. Starting with the NFL Wild Card Game, other events seeing an increase this year included men’s and women’s regular-season college basketball, the women’s Final Four, all three of ESPN’s Grand Slam tennis events (Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open), the NFL Draft, the NBA Draft Lottery, the NCAA Softball Tournament, MLB Sunday Night Baseball, Formula One, WNBA, MLS, college football and Monday Night Football.

For the fourth quarter of 2019 (September 30 – December 29):

In total day:

  • ESPN was the #1 cable network among Men 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 for at least a 20th straight year.

In prime time:

  • ESPN led all cable networks among the key adult and male demos – 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, as well as Men 18+ and has done so in each year for at least 20 years.
  • ESPN led cable among total viewers and Adults 18+ for the 19th year out of 20.

The quarter also was the 26th consecutive in which ESPN has been the No. 1 full-time cable network in total day among Men18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 (starting in Q3 2013).  Looking at the streak in terms of years, ESPN has been No. 1 for 14 straight (since 2006) and 18 consecutive in prime time (since 2002).

For the month of December (November 25 – December 29):

In total day:

  • ESPN was up 1% among total viewers (P2+).
  • ESPN was the #1 cable network among Men 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 for at least a 20th straight year.

In prime time:

  • ESPN was up 5% among total viewers.
  • Thanks to the College Football Playoff Semifinals and Monday Night Football, ESPN led all networks in prime time for the week of December 23-29.
    • ESPN led all cable networks among the key adult and male demos – 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, as well as Men 18+ and has done so in each year for at least 20 years.

Football Drives Increases for Morning Studio Shows (all increases are among P2+):

During the football season (Sept. 5 – Dec. 27, 2019 vs. Sept. 6 – Dec. 28, 2018), ESPN’s trio of morning news shows were all up, a positive sign for the upcoming College Football Playoff National Championship and the NFL Playoffs and Super Bowl.  The 7 a.m. SportsCenter was up 3% (356,000 vs. 347,000), Get Up was up 10% (404,000 vs. 367,000) and First Take was up 2% (488,000 vs. 480,000).  All three shows will have a live presence at the College Football Playoff National Championship and at the Super Bowl.

Other studio show results:

  • Monday Night Countdown was up 13% for the year (to 1,423,000).
  • Sunday NFL Countdown was up 8% for the year (to 1,328,000).
  • College GameDay was up 3% for the year (to 1,956,000).
  • The 7 a.m. ET SportsCenter was up 2% for the month of December and 3% for the year.
  • Get Up increased for the 10th straight month, gaining 17% (432,000 vs. 369,000).
  • First Take was up 12% in December and 2% in fourth quarter.
  • PTI saw a gain of 3% in December (849,000 vs. 828,000) climbing for eight of the last nine months.  The show also ended up 3% for the quarter (822,000 vs. 795,000) and for the year (758,000 vs. 736,000).
  • Driven by the late night editions of SportsCenter, not only is ESPN is the #1 network (cable or broadcast) from 11 p.m. – 2 a.m. across all key male (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54), but it is also the leading network – cable or broadcast – with adults 18-34.
  • Driven by SportsCenter, ESPN is the #1 cable network on the weekend from 7 a.m. – 1 p.m. across all key male demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54) and all key person demos (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54).



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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