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Subscriber Numbers Show Why ESPN, FOX Sports and Others Are Developing New Distribution Outlets

A note from John Ourand of Puck in his twice-weekly email about the sports business, The Varsity, says that Neilsen numbers show distribution of ESPN has fallen below 70 million homes for the first time since the early days of cable television. Ourand says the actual number is less than 68 million homes, whereas the subscriber numbers were once over 100 million homes.

In giving the stats for other major sports outlets, Ourand writes that “cord-cutting is impacting every pay TV channel: FS1 has dropped to 67.9 million homes, and FS2 is currently in 49 million homes. TBS and TNT have each seen their subscriber numbers shrink to 66 million homes.

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“Meanwhile, the NFL Network has fallen below 50 million homes for the first time in recent memory, to 49.6 million, and NBA TV (36 million) and MLB Network (33 million) have seen their numbers fall even more dramatically than channels run by traditional media companies.”

Now, the sports television networks have to figure out how to reach the 60 million or so who do not subscribe to pay television. As Ourand points out, this is the reason ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery are getting set to launch Venu and why ESPN will launch a direct-to-consumer platform next year.

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