The steady decline in ESPN and ESPN2’s subscriber totals have caused the sports networks to fall below the 75% coverage mark, according to Nielsen.
As Sports TV Ratings pointed out, Nielsen estimates for February 2017 put ESPN at about 87.8 million subscribers and ESPN2 at about 87.7 million subscribers, totals that put both networks at 74% coverage.
According to the ratings firm’s estimates for February, ESPN is down 542,000 subscribers since December and ESPN2 is down 552,000.
According to the report, with the exception of FS2, which added 235,000 subscribers since December, most other sports networks lost subscribers. Eclipsing the losses of ESPN’s channels, the Golf Channel lost about 1.24 million subscribers and MLB Network lost about 1.1 million subscribers since December.
The new Nielsen numbers, which continue to show ESPN in decline, come after the ratings firm and the sports network got into it over Nielsen’s report last year showing ESPN dropped 621,000 subscribers in October.
After initially pulling back the report following protest from ESPN, Nielsen eventually reiterated its findings.
“Nielsen has now completed an extensive review and has verified that November estimates were accurate as originally released and that all the processes that go into the creation of these estimates were done correctly. Accordingly, they will be re-released today to our clients and put into our production systems on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016,” the company said.
ESPN responded by questioning Nielsen’s methodologies.
“This most recent snapshot from Nielsen is a historic anomaly for the industry and inconsistent with much more moderated trends observed by other respected third party analysts,” ESPN said in a statement. “It also does not measure DMVPDs and other new distributors and we hope to work with Nielsen to capture this growing market in future reports.”
Since then, Nielsen has slowly rolled out new measurements for streaming media viewership in order to account for growing vMVPDs like Sling TV and DirecTV Now.