ESPN, ESPN 2 Now In Less Than 75% of American Homes According To Most Recent Numbers

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A steady decline for ESPN continues as new numbers from Nielsen show that the network and its ESPN 2 counterpart are now in less than 75% of U.S. Homes.

The most recent number from Neilsen (as noted by Sports TV Ratings) for February of 2017 have ESPN at about 87.8 million subscribers, and ESPN2 at about 87.7 million subscribers. That equals out to 74% coverage over all available TV sets.

Since December, the numbers say that ESPN is down over 540,000 subscribers, and ESPN 2 down over 550,000.

Of course, as more and more people turn to streaming options for their TV, these numbers are no surprise, nor are they limited to ESPN. With the exception of FS2 (which actually added 235,000 subscribers since December) almost every other cable sports networks saw a drop in subscribers. The Golf Channel was one of the biggest losers, seeing 1.24 million of their subscribers vanish since December. MLB Network also lost just over 1 million.
Neilsen and ESPN feuded last fall when the media ratings company showed ESPN in a major decline, losing 600,000 in one month. ESPN criticized the numbers as incorrect, and Nielsen pulled back. But after investigating, Neilsen reassumed their stance.

The company said “Nielsen has now completed an extensive review and has verified that November estimates were accurate as originally released and that all the processes that go into the creation of these estimates were done correctly. Accordingly, they will be re-released today to our clients and put into our production systems on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016.”

ESPN’s response was to question the methods that Nielsen arrived at those numbers. At the time, ESPN argued, Nielsen didn’t take in to account services like Sling TV and DirecTV now. Neilsen has since rolled out measures to take those services into account, but subscribers for cable sports still appear to be in a freefall.
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Artie Beaty

Artie Beaty is a freelance writer from North Carolina who follows the world of streaming closely on a daily basis. Contact him at or on Twitter @AboutCharlotte.
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