With Conservative Viewership Tanking, ESPN Gets MSNBC to Run Ads on SportsCenter
In a response to recent reports confirming that liberal bias is costing ESPN thousands of subscribers per month, the network is now accepting commercial ads from MSNBC. This mind-boggling affirmation of the political direction of the company comes at a time when it is in financial freefall, calling into question the decision making of the company's executives.
The MSNBC sponsorship started over the weekend with an ad sponsoring a segment of SportsCenter, the daily sports highlight show that anchors ESPN. In the spot, the spokesman says, "This segment of SportsCenter is brought to you by MSNBC, because these days, information and facts have never been more important."
This is especially poor judgment on the part of ESPN executives looking to stem the tide of dwindling subscribership. (Incidentally, perhaps lowered demand for their advertising space is what caused them to be more desperate for ads—and what caused MSNBC to be able to afford the ad spot.) Two recent studies have now shown that conservatives are turning off ESPN in droves. This is bad news for the Worldwide Leader in Sports™, as the majority of sports fans to whom ESPN markets identify as conservative. The first study, reported by YouGov.com, shows that subscribership dropped precipitously after two incidents of ESPN's liberal agenda made national headlines: the featuring of Caitlyn Jenner at the ESPY Awards, and the firing of Curt Schilling.
The second study was a broader survey of viewership patterns in 2015 and 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Deep Root Analytics. They showed a clear trend that the audience of ESPN became markedly more liberal across a variety of time slots from 2015 to 2016—a clear indication that conservatives were turning off ESPN and finding their sports fixes elsewhere.
Deep Root Analytics notes in their survey that the liberalization of the programming at ESPN may not have been a chief cause of ESPN's loss of subscribers that began in 2011. The rise of alternative technologies and platforms to find original sports programming, such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Fire, and even competing cable channels, initially caused the erosion of ESPN's support. It seems clear, however, as more evidence mounts, that this trend has been greatly accelerated by ESPN's willful rejection of the half of its audience that is made up of right-leaning voters.
Hat-tip once again to Clay Travis of Fox Sports Radio, who has been all over this story for well over a year now. (Just a reminder, Travis is no conservative, and claims never to have voted for a Republican for president.) Over at his blog, Outkick the Coverage, Travis notes that ESPN is still losing 10,000 subscribers per day in 2017. On his radio show this morning, Travis made an excellent point about who elected Donald Trump. The coalition that elected Trump is what he calls the college football crowd. Trump won all eleven SEC states and several Big Ten states. The number of people who decided the entire Electoral College in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan—about 70,000 voters, give or take—could fit inside a college football stadium.
Which sports audience is the most conservative? If you answered college football, you're a winner.
Instead of trying to win back its formerly loyal audience, ESPN is instead doubling down on liberalism by accepting ad money from MSNBC. I don't know about anyone else, but removing politics from this equation, if I were a Disney/ABC/ESPN shareholder, I would be livid at the decisions being made by the brass at ESPN.