How Much Money ESPN Is Probably Making Off People Who Don't Care About Sports

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As the cord-cutting revolution continues settling in, generations of cable and satellite subscribers are learning more and more about the behind-the-scenes happenings at so many of the companies we're been pumping money into for years. And thanks to a recent survey and some number-crunching, it can be roughly estimated that the customer-dropping sports giant ESPN could be making as much as $4.5 billion dollars off of people who don't watch the network or even care about live sports in general.

Let's jump into the details here, which come partially from a recent CutCableToday survey polling pay TV subscribers about their programming choices in relation to sports. Of those surveyed with cable subscriptions, a whopping 30% never watch ESPN, with another 26% claiming they hit the channel up once a month or less. And of the overall total, over 32% of respondents considered live sports "very unimportant" when selecting a pay TV provider, with more than 20% of the rest of the mindset that live sports is either "somewhat unimportant" or simply not worth thinking about in the first place.

According to the stat-crafting StreamingObserver, when the rough total of 53% of pay TV users is combined with the mandated $8.11 surcharge that ESPN gets from every single TV subscription package, the channel looks to be bringing in around $375,452,207 a month from the 87 million (and change) people paying for small screen entertainment. And when that's factored across twelve months, the $4.5 billion total begins looming large.

If it wasn't already clear, these results are an extremely inexact estimation, considering the randomized polling only reached 753 people; a much larger polling pool would be needed in order to extract something closer to the "real" total. But when you're dealing with numbers as big as $4.5 billion, estimations can differ by hundreds of millions of dollars and still be comparable. If ESPN is only gaining $4 billion from customers uninterested in sporting contests, does that feel like a bigger win for consumers?

According to the survey, live sports is at least the kind of ESPN programming that people are most interested in, with highlights shows like Sportscenter just behind. The least loved of everything? Bloviation-filled programming where analysts debate/yell over each other.

Recent years have seen ESPN make headlines for many things that didn't involve live sporting contests. From shrinking ratings to shrinking workforces to likely getting overtaken by Netflix in annual spending, the channel has definitely lost much of it appeal as a TV staple with audiences. Streaming is helping to win back some of the people that dropped cable subscriptions, but when so many TV viewers apparently don't care about watching sports in the first place, ESPN doesn't have a lot of options to regain its lost ground.

Regardless of the precise numbers behind the dollar sign, ESPN is still bringing in money hand over foot, and a lot of it comes from people who would probably rather put it elsewhere. It'll be interesting to see if any changes end up hitting the company's deals and demands with cable and satellite providers in the near future. In the meantime, though, check out all of the mostly non-sports programming heading to primetime by hitting up our summer TV premiere schedule.

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Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.