Although Disney may currently be experiencing lower TV ratings than last year, Clemson’s defeat over Alabama in the NCAA National Championship was a win for the company.
Despite the game being a thrilling encounter — with Clemson grabbing a 35-31 win over Alabama in the final seconds of the game — it couldn’t marshal enough numbers to match past years in TV ratings.
According to Variety, Nielsen’s early ratings put the household rating at 15.3, a drop from 15.8 in 2016. Given that 2015 ratings were 15% higher, this was yet another decline.
Starting with the 2014 season, ESPN had paid about $608 million per year for 12 years to have the rights for the biggest matches in college football, including the contract bowls.
The seven million cable subscribers that ESPN lost between 2013 and 2015 slashed a whopping $1.3 billion from Disney’s overall revenues at a time when the company had forecasted steady cable subscription growth over time.
This unexpected and sharp drop has made Disney start to looking at streaming as their next source of income. In acknowledgment of this as the future of live sports, last summer ESPN bought a stake in BAM Tech for $1 billion.
And this is where the blessing in disguise comes in for Disney: as far as the championship game is concerned, streaming is experiencing higher numbers faster than television is losing them.
The streaming of the 2017 game clocked 710,000 in average audience numbers, a record for ESPN and a 21% rise from 2016, which was also up 23% from 2015. Although ad income from online streaming may be just a small part of what Disney earns from TV advertising, it goes a long way toward realizing maximum returns on the $608 million that Disney is paying per year for the TV rights.
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