ESPN has officially been dethroned as the most carried sports television network in United States. The massive media channel, like most other traditional networks, has experienced a significant drop in subscribers in recent years. This is mostly due to the fact that many Americans have cut their cable or satellite plans and opted for streaming services.
Cable networks losing millions of subscribers each year
The Streamable is reporting that FS1 has now narrowly surpassed ESPN as the nation’s most available sports network. Recent numbers show that FOX’s main sports channel is currently in 71.375 million homes. ESPN, on the other hand, is available in 71.321 million households. While the difference between the two channels is not major, it does signal worrying times for the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” ESPN was only just recently in over 100 million houses in the country.
Both networks did, however, experience a loss of millions of viewers in 2023. According to the aforementioned outlet, over 2.5 million homes dropped ESPN and FS1 this year. Other cable sports networks had similar losses. In fact, TBS and TNT dropped over 3 million customers during the same timeframe.
Disney looking at ways to get ESPN in more homes while FS1 rises
Along with being knocked down from the top spot, ESPN is also at risk of being sold off by Disney. The massive media conglomerate is currently looking for minority investors in the sports channel. This includes professional sports leagues such as the the National Football League, Major League Baseball, and National Basketball Association. However, fellow media companies like Apple and Amazon Prime could form a partnership with ESPN as well.
Disney is also potentially preparing for life without the traditional sports channel. Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed back in February that the sports network will eventually move to a stand-alone streaming service. The exec would not give an exact timeframe on the move. Still, the transition will not occur before 2025.
Despite ESPN’s recent decline, the network still holds rights to some significant media rights deals. This includes deals with the three most-popular sports leagues in the nation. Along with football, basketball, and baseball, ESPN also airs a plethora of live soccer content.
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