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ESPN In 8 Million Fewer Homes Than In 2020

“Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted.”

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ESPN

Some people in the media watch ESPN’s subscriber numbers like a hawk and report them without real context. In 2021, the people that cheer whenever there is news about ESPN having fewer subscribers than it used to will tell you that the network is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of the last fiscal year than it was in at the end of fiscal 2020. There is some context that is missing though.

Linear cable isn’t an a la cart service. So, if ESPN is in 8 million fewer homes at the end of 2021, then that means FOX News, Bravo, Nickelodeon and every other cable network is in 8 million fewer homes too. Also missing is the fact that while linear ESPN is losing subscribers, plenty of people are signing up for ESPN+ subscriptions.

At the end of fiscal 2021, ESPN Plus had more than 17 million subscribers. That is significant growth over fiscal 2020. ESPN Plus had 10.3 million subscribers at the end of the prior year.

ESPN’s traditional cable network and its sister channels net around $10 per subscriber for Disney each month through packages on cable, satellite and digital TV. At $6.99 per month, ESPN Plus is not a perfect replacement, but that is a direct payment to the company.

Rumors of Disney looking to divest from ESPN have persisted. A drop in linear cable distribution will do nothing to end that speculation. We may be in for an extended session of number watching though. If cable subscriptions keep dropping off at such a high rate, it could motivate Disney to make a move.

Sports TV News

FOX Confirms It Will Be a Part of USFL’s Second Season in 2023

The network will continue to be a USFL TV partner next year, according to Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks. Shanks is the chairman of the league’s board of directors.

Jordan Bondurant

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The USFL appears to be headed for a second season in 2023, and Fox Sports will be along for the ride.

The network will continue to be a USFL TV partner next year, according to Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks. Shanks is the chairman of the league’s board of directors.

Between Fox and NBC, game broadcasts in the league’s inaugural season averaged 695,000 viewers.

The league does not plan to add new teams for 2023, but Shanks indicated the league is planning to have regular season games played in other cities, not just Birmingham, Alabama where this season was held.

Shanks did say there is a desire to add more teams potentially in 2024 as well as having teams play in their home cities.

The USFL championship game will be this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. between the Philadelphia Stars and the Birmingham Stallions. The game will air on FOX.

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Sports TV News

Ben Bitonti Hired to Head Unscripted Programming at Game1

Game1, a production company focused on original sports content, have hired Ben Bitonti to be its chief creative officer and head of unscripted programming.

Jordan Bondurant

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Game1

Game1, a production company focused on original sports content, have hired Ben Bitonti to be its chief creative officer and head of unscripted programming.

Bitonti joins Game1 after previously serving at 101 Studios as EVP of non-fiction TV and alternate programming. He helped launch the company’s unscripted division.

Ben has a range of experience in both unscripted and scripted content production.

“Adding a supremely talented executive like Ben to the game1 team will truly help transform our business,” said Game1 co-founder and chairman Basil Iwanyk. “His expertise and creative storytelling instincts in the unscripted realm are unparalleled. He will help us take the solid foundation that we’ve already built and get it to the next level.”

Bitonti said he’s ready to hit the ground running.

“I’m thrilled to dig in and help build out unscripted efforts and more with our team at game1,” he said. “Sports and athlete driven content continue to be a constant growth sector of our industry, and game1 is uniquely positioned to be a leading contributor to that growth.”

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Sports TV News

Lindsay Czarniak Says the Timing Was Right to Leave ESPN

“The end there it was something that I look back on, and it wasn’t a negative,” she said. “I think at the time the timing was right for it to happen”.

Jordan Bondurant

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Lindsey Czarniak

Lindsay Czarniak holds no ill-will towards ESPN. She is enjoying having the chance to work on FOX’s NASCAR and NFL coverage in addition to working on CBS’ coverage of the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX).

Talking to Jon Lewis and and T.J. Rives on the Sports Media Watch Podcast, Czarniak said she loved having the chance to anchor SportsCenter, but her heart was in actually being at events on the ground.

“The end there it was something that I look back on, and it wasn’t a negative,” she said. “I think at the time the timing was right for it to happen. And truth be told, they were really great.”

“I knew at that point that there was other stuff that I wanted to do,” she added. “And so the way that it played out it became very apparent that this is the time where if I can go out and explore doing some more event coverage rather than just doing solo studio hosting only, that’s what I wanted to do.”

Czarniak cleared up a point about the end of her run on SportsCenter. She said she knew before she was slated to go on maternity leave in 2017, she would no longer be anchoring the 6 p.m. show. So she wasn’t caught off guard or left in the dark about changes the network made to the show at the time.

But Czarniak said she never lost sight of the opportunity she had at ESPN. She just felt like she needed to get back to reporting.

“(Hosting SportsCenter) was a blast, and there were certain times that it felt like, wow this is the best thing I’ve ever done on a national level and this is awesome,” she said. “But I also just really loved being able to develop those relationships on my own and have that access.”

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