With annual broadcasting contracts of $1.4 billion to the NBA, $1.9 billion to the NFL, amidst layoffs and losing subscribers, ESPN needs to be creative to stay ahead of the curve. This week, the network took two steps toward developing a younger audience with the additions of Barstool Van Talk and Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, who host a late-night talk show on VICE’s Viceland channel.
Both duos produce content on platforms that the Walt Disney owned ESPN previously would avoid. Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” podcast, hosted by Big Cat and PFT Commenter, partnered with ESPN to create “Barstool Van Talk,” despite backlash from ESPN’s Sam Ponder regarding Barstool’s history.
Tucked away at 1am ET on ESPN 2 early Wednesday morning, Barstool Van Talk generated 88,000 views, their lead-in drew an audience of 61,000, lead-out 39,000. In comparison, FS1’s prime-time 5pm ET show “Speak For Yourself” averages nearly 100,000 viewers. As much as ESPN has been criticized for losing subscribers in recent years, their prime-time shows average closer to 1 million views showing the industry dominance the network still has.
As pointed out by Clay Travis, last week Jalen and Jacoby had 139,000 viewers in the same timeslot, but that was with SportsCenter as a lead-in providing an audience of 174,000. Considering Barstool Van Talk is a new show and had a lesser lead-in and minimal promotion leading up to its premiere, the network should be satisfied with their audience.
ESPN recently announced they will be combining their digital and traditional TV audiences, the 88,000 number for Barstool Van Talk does not include all who watched the show via a streaming platform (as I did). With ESPN no longer selling advertising based on traditional TV ratings, offering content that appeals to the digital audience is imperative.