Looks like GOP voters finally realized they can go elsewhere for sports coverage that doesn’t also feature interjections of liberal political commentary.
According to a study by Deep Root Analytics, ESPN’s audience noticeably changed from 2015 to 2016: Fewer Republicans were tuning in.
It’s not the first time anyone has suggested that ESPN shed viewers because of its lefty leanings, but the analytics group broadened its study to cover 43 different television markets. Even when including these new audiences, including large cities like New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., its findings didn’t change. Although the network’s audience was already liberal in 2015, Democrats made up a greater share of ESPN’s viewers in 2016.
This trend was consistent through all of ESPN’s platforms, with ESPN News displaying the largest partisan shift—its audience became 36 percent less Republican in 2016. Its flagship station, ESPN, became 5 percent less Republican in the markets analyzed.
While the political shift was more dramatic in areas that supported President Trump — rural Bluefield-Beckley-Oak Hill, West Virginia, saw a 37 percent increase in Democratic viewership — the New York City market became 7 percent less Republican. Only two markets, Boston and Charlotte, saw increased Republican viewership.
In the past five years, ESPN has lost 10 million subscribers. In April, the network announced that up to 100 personalities may lose their jobs as the network sought to save money in the face of decreasing advertising revenue.
ESPN Public Editor Jim Brady acknowledged in April that politics is a “smaller cause” of its overall viewership decline. On-air talent like anchor Linda Cohn said that political “is definitely a percentage” the reason viewers are changing the channel.
“I don’t know how big a percentage, but if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind,” she told the New York Post.