ESPN Finds Viewership Grows With Total Live Audience Metric

Streaming millennials, women viewing out-of-home give network a boost

ESPN said its move to using Nielsen Total Live Audience Measurement has added a significant number of streaming and out-of-home viewers to its ratings, including a good number of millennials.

After seven weeks of employing the new system, ESPN said, its millennial audience is up 23% in total day and 28% in primetime, compared with traditional ratings.

Overall, ESPN’s viewing is up 4% in total day and 13% in prime time.

The move to total live audience is important to ESPN, which has been losing traditional pay TV subscribers, resulting in slower revenue growth and hundreds of layoffs as the network tries to adjust to changing viewer consumption patterns.

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Using the new methodology, millennials account for nearly half of ESPN’s measured streaming audience. Women accounted for about 34% of out-of-home viewing of ESPN. Viewing among millennial women jumped 12% with the inclusion of out-of-home measurement, ESPN said.

“These early findings from Nielsen tell us that Total Live Audience is the only meaningful way to understand sports consumption, including key insights into our millennial viewers,” said Cary Meyers, senior VP of fan and media intelligence, ESPN. “We will continue to mine this data to not only inform us on how best to serve fans with our content, but also to guide advertisers on how best to optimize their brand on our platform with specific audiences.”

ESPN said expects its streaming numbers to further increase now that the ESPN app is supported by Apple TV.

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From Sept. 25 through Nov. 12, including streaming and out-of-home viewing added 14% to ESPN’s traditional viewership across both total day and primetime, the network said.

Among adults 35-54, C3 ratings — the currency used for media buying — was up 18% when streaming and out-of-home were included.

ESPN’s college football audience was up 16%. Monday Night Football was up 13% and NBA games were up 18%. Among millennials, the lifts were greater, with 33% for college football, 26% for Monday Night Football and 27% for the NBA.

The new ratings system also helped some of ESPN’s pre-game and post-game programming.

College Game Day got a 33% lift, Monday Night Countdown gained 28%, First Take rose 19%, SportsCenter With Scott Van Pelt was up 14% and Sunday NFL Countdown increased 16%

ESPN said streaming of ESPN on ABC broadcasts is not included in Nielsen Total Live Audiences.