ESPN2’s standing amongst its cable sports peers is slipping. It has finished second to ESPN in viewership every year since its launch in 1993. It will fall all the way to 4th in 2018 though.
NBCSN and FS1 have both posted record viewership in 2018. That is, in part, thanks to the Winter Olympics in South Korea and the FIFA World Cup in Russia. Both networks will move past ESPN2, leaving the deuce all the way back in 4th place for the year.
John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal, reports that NBCSN moved past FS1 thanks to a strong play-by-play schedule outside of the Olympics.
NBCSN was helped by the Pyeongchang Olympics, which accounted for 13 of the 20 most-watched shows on the network. NBCSN also was helped by four NASCAR races and three NHL playoff games — Games 2 and 3 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Capitals and the Golden Knights; and Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Capitals and the Lightning.
The concern in Bristol is that this might be the new normal. After all, in years past the World Cup boost that FS1 enjoyed this year would belong to ESPN and ESPN2. Jay Rigdon of Awful Announcing wrote “ESPN’s hold on the #1 spot is just about unbreakable. But as other networks pick off properties, it makes sense that ESPN2 would feel the squeeze first.”