2016 was the first year that FS1 and NBCSN in prime time beat out ESPN2, which saw a 19 percent drop in average prime-time viewership for the year. Both FS1 and NBCSN had record years in prime time. FS1 had some special circumstances, benefitting from the Chicago Cubs’ postseason run. The network also had its best college football season yet and Copa America Centenario. Meanwhile, NBCSN had the benefit of live prime-time Olympic programming for the first time, which led to the best quarterly figure in the network’s history.
But looking at total-day viewership, ESPN2 maintained a lead over both NBCSN and FS1, despite a nine percent drop in average total day viewership in 2016. Even with record-setting years, both NBCSN and FS1 could not cross the 200,000 average viewers threshold for the year, while ESPN2 averaged 245,000 viewers.
“ESPN2 remains a critical part of our arsenal,” said Burke Magnus, executive vice president of programming and scheduling. “Having the two most-watched sports channels is a powerful proposition to our rights holders.”