It's been a rough stretch for ESPN and SportsCenter. Ratings for ESPN's flagship show have been sagging, bringing in about 828,000 viewers this year, down from about 1 million last year. Primetime ratings for ESPN and ESPN2 have seen declines too. ESPN's gotten really defensive about it, especially in the run-up to Fox Sports 1's launch. (Which was maybe premature. Since Fox Sports 1 has launched, ESPN has seen ratings rise.)
So how do you fight the downward trends? With money! ESPN is introducing a new SportsCenter spot—you probably saw at some point this weekend—and what's unique is that it won't be on ESPN alone. The Wall Street Journal reports that this is the first time in nearly a decade that ESPN will advertise SportsCenter on other channels. (Maybe you saw the spot during NBC's Sunday Night Football.)
The Journal reports:
Shoring up SportsCenter is key for ESPN. Such studio programming accounted for 43% of the $2.8 billion in ad spending ESPN attracted in 2012 to its flagship and sister networks, according to WPP PLC's Kantar Media, an ad-tracking research firm. Needham Insights estimates that ESPN has more than $10 billion in annual revenue.
The SportsCenter ads will run on DirecTV, Time Warner Inc.'s Adult Swim and channels owned by Viacom Inc. such as Spike and Comedy Central, ESPN said.
The network's ad outlays have been declining over the past few years. ESPN spent $57.2 million in 2012, down from $138.8 million in 2010, according to Kantar. ESPN declined to comment on ad-spending totals, but added that in 2010 it heavily promoted the World Cup.