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.

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

The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."

Video

What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.

Video

Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.

Video

Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.

Video

How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Business

Just In