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What Happened to ESPN? The Decline of a Business

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What Happened to ESPN? The Decline of a Business

ESPN was launched in 1979 and it is a pay television sports channel. Though it is US-based, it has grown over the years to be a global behemoth with its tentacles spreading to multiple countries with more on their international channels on It carries multiple sports and leagues like football and the NFL, hockey and the NHL, soccer and the MLS and so much more. This made them quite popular among sports enthusiasts since it had a wide variety of live sports to choose from which meant there was something for everybody. However, in recent years the number of their subscribers has gone down and they have had to lay off some of their reporters in recent times. Why are they in decline then? Well, this article will look to explore exactly why this is the case.

One of the main reasons that is attributed to have led to the decline of ESPN is their lack of compelling content over the last few years. This lack of content has seen some of their staples, like their signature sports news show, SportsCenter, take a massive drop in ratings in the last few years. This show was once the most popular and most highly rated of all of ESPN’s shows but over the years, mostly due to its not so compelling content. Experts in this field, like those you find on, have always argued that the most important demographic when it comes to sports channels is that of the people between the years of 18 to 34. This demographic was put off ESPN’s SportsCenter as they felt that the content on there was not to most of their tastes. New content that was introduced to try and snare back consumers has not been that successful. The lack of compelling content has definitely led to the decline of ESPN.

Another thing that has to be discussed when looking at the decline of ESPN is the phenomenon of cord cutters and cord nevers, which is discussed in much greater detail on These are consumers who have never had a cable subscription for cable nevers and consumers who have refused to continue paying for a cable subscription for cable cutters. The emergence of these two groups of people in recent times has definitely led to ESPN’s decline. The number of cord cutters has increased astronomically over the last couple of years as most of the consumers of sports and sports entertainment have been seduced by and subsequently opted to go the route of either free-to-air television or streaming sites like Hulu, Netflix among others. Some have decided to take the more extreme step of opting out of live sports altogether. The emergence of the streaming content market has definitely led this phenomenon and the reaction of ESPN has not been convincing at all. They have been slow to penetrating this market and this has left them at a disadvantage as compared to other competitors and it has kept them from reaching the large number of young potential consumers. This has definitely contributed to their decline.

The next thing that we are going to look at when analyzing the reasons behind their decline is their propensity to overpay for rights fees. A close look at the numbers is to be found on, but what is clear is that ESPN have massively overpaid to obtain the rights for competitions and leagues like the NFL and the NBA while these deals are also for multiple years which means that ESPN are tied to these deals for a long while yet. These deals are supposed to be win-win for both parties involved but this is not the case for the deals done by ESPN as the only party that is bound to benefit is the both the NBA and the NFL as well their players. These fees don’t make much sense as they currently don’t have enough subscribers to bring in enough money in subscription fees to make up for the shortfall. Other ESPN revenue streams like TV ad sales, digital and magazine ad sales among others also aren’t enough to offset the balance brought about by their overpaying of rights fees. One of the things ESPN can do to try to boost revenues to be able to make up for the shortfall is by increasing subscription fees. However, any increase will have to be reasonable otherwise their remaining subscribers may be put off and find the new fees unaffordable. As things stand however, the exorbitant fees they paid for the rights of the leagues they are airing has made it difficult to continue being profitable and it is one of the reasons why they are in decline.

This article only highlights a few of the reasons that may have led to the decline of ESPN. There are of course a lot to it, and a lot more reasons as to their decline. For more on that and then some ensure you visit the always reliable

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