ESPN’s New Year’s eve nightmare: College football ratings in free fall

by WorldTribune Staff, January 2, 2017

Is it too late for the 24/7 sports network to return to being a network that focuses primarily on . . . sports?

ESPN’s broadcast of the College Football Playoffs on Dec. 31 received just a 10.4 rating, down 32 percent from two years ago.

Alabama defeated Washington, 24-7, in the College Football Playoffs semifinals on Dec. 31. /Getty Images
Alabama defeated Washington, 24-7, in the College Football Playoffs semifinals on Dec. 31. /Getty Images

The ratings may be an ominous sign for a network that shelled out $5.6 billion for a 12-year deal to carry the College Football Playoffs. Last year, the Sporting News reported ESPN might need to repay $20 million to advertisers due to the low ratings.

The Disney-owned sports network has been hemorrhaging subscribers since it took a wide left turn, analysts say, and its broadcasts of major sporting events are sinking in the ratings as a result.

“ESPN’s decision to give voice to the full-throated fury of their radical leftist personalities turned into a decision that not only cost them a few bad Nielsen ratings books, but might also cost them their company,” John Pudner wrote for Breitbart on Jan. 2.

“The low ratings occurred despite the fact that ESPN could not have asked for a luckier draw, as the two games featured the best three fan bases in all of college football (1, Alabama, 2, Ohio State and 3, Clemson) and one of the two biggest fan bases from the west in Washington, according to USA Today’s rankings,” Pudner wrote. “Geographically the 32 percent drop is from an apples-to-apples comparison, as the 2014 playoffs featured the same best two fan bases (Alabama and Ohio State), subbed the other top western fan base (Oregon) and also had the ACC champ (Florida State in 2014 compared to Clemson this year).”

Pudner continued: “While sports used to offer Americans a place to get away from political and other divisions to root for a common team, Disney’s ESPN instead chose to use their reach to try to shape a liberal agenda, such as labeling those who referred to the Washington Redskins as racists. They never bothered to ask Native Americans, and when the Washington Post finally did and found 9 in 10 did NOT consider the team name racist, ESPN personality Michael Wilbon said he was ‘stunned’ by the findings of the poll, thinking the majority of Native Americans would be offended, adding that ‘this shuts the door on the issue’ of changing the Redskins’ name.

“Perhaps a return to sports as a safe haven from political attacks and protests would bring back viewers.”