ESPN Is Still 2X Bigger Than Every Other Cable Sports Network Combined

In a very, very valuable business, it's got the most valuable assets.

ESPN is the richest media brand in the U.S. today not only because cable television is practically the best business in the country, but also because among cable sports networks, ESPN has a virtual monopoly on the best games, and, subsequently, your attention.

Here's a look at ESPN vs. non-ESPN sports cable networks (broadcast, TNT, and TBS not included) and their average primetime viewership the last three Septembers, when baseball nears the playoffs and football starts.

Being number one has cascading benefits in an entertainment industry like this. ESPN gets the highest subscription fees ($6.4 billion each year in subs, and that's before selling a cent of advertising), so it has the most money, so it can afford the most popular live sports rights, so it has the highest viewership, so it gets the highest subscription fees, and around and around we go.

Fox Sports 1 isn't ESPN's competition, no offense to Fox. ESPN's competition is stagnant wages and slow household formation that turns the cable bundle into luxury good.

Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Business

Just In