Booyah Hike Across America

ESPN Loses Over a Half Million Subscribers

by Dylan Gwinn

The Nielsen estimates revealed that ESPN lost 555,000 subscribers during the last month.

In other words, ESPN essentially lost the city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This, coming on the heels of last month, the worst month in ESPN history, where the network lost 621,000 subscribers.

In the last two months, ESPN has lost 1,176,000 subscribers, a subscriber loss nearly the size of the city of Dallas, Texas. ESPN currently has just over 88 million domestic subscribers. In 2013, a mere three years ago, ESPN had 99 million subscribers. That’s right, in the last three years, ESPN lost somewhere in the neighborhood of ten million subscribers, the rough equivalent of the combined populations of New York City and Phoenix.

Now, in fairness, ESPN has contested the subscriber estimates that Nielsen put forth, citing the omission of multiple factors, including streaming services and digital device numbers. However, if the Nielsen numbers even remotely approximate the true subscriber loss, it means ESPN has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue over the last three years alone and if the trend continues, is well on its way to collapse.

Certainly, the chord cutting phenomenon that has hit networks across cable television has a definite impact on ESPN. Though, that’s not the entire explanation for the network’s cratering subscriber base. ESPN Ombudsman Jim Brady, admitted that the network lurched way too far to the left in recent years, alienating many viewers.

There’s also evidence of that in these numbers. According to Deadline Hollywood, “Disney’s other sports channels fared better. ESPNU had 71 million subs, down 1.4%. ESPNEWS and SEC Network — not measured by Nielsen — were flat based on December data from SNL Kagan. The former had 70 million subs and the latter had 62 million.”

What do ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network all have in common? They are, by far, the least opinion-driven and ideological of all the ESPN channels. ESPN’s slate of uber-opinionated, radically leftist programs such as Around the Horn, First Take, Pardon the Interruption, His & Hers, and others all appear on ESPN or ESPN2, the channels which have seen the greatest decline.

ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and the SEC Network primarily feature sporting events, simulcast radio shows, or straight news reporting with very little opinion, or, at least very little political opinion. Those channels have either marginally declined or stayed flat.

Something tells me there’s a message there.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter: @themightygwinn

Barney Miller's Ron Glass Dead at 71

Ron Glass, who played stylish and sassy NYPD detective/aspiring author Ron Harris on ABC’s long-running sitcom Barney Miller, died on Friday of respiratory failure, a spokesperson for the veteran actor has confirmed for TVLine. He was 71.

In addition to his role on the Emmy-winning workplace comedy, Glass portrayed the spiritual Shepherd Book on Fox’s short-lived sci-fi drama Firefly (as well as its big-screen follow-up, Serenity). 

His lengthy resume also included fellow one-and-done programs including The New Odd Couple (in the Felix Unger role), Rhythm & Blues, Mr. Rhodes and Teen Angel, as well as guest appearances on All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Streets of San Francisco, Amen and Friends. In recent years, he appeared in episodes of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Major Crimes and CSI.
Glass’ prolific career also included voiceover work, having been featured on Rugrats (and its spinoff All Grown Up!), Superman, Aladdin and The Proud Family.

Glass’ Barney Miller castmate Abe Vigoda died earlier this year, at age 94.
Firefly creator Joss Whedon, and costars Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Jewel Staite and Sean Maher have since paid tribute on social media.

'Moana' Sails for $85M-Plus Bow; Warren Beatty's 'Rules Don't Apply' Bombs

Courtesy of Disney

'Moana' won't have any trouble beating 'Fantastic Beasts,' while returns for 'Allied,' starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, and Billy Bob Thornton's 'Bad Santa 2' are mixed so far.

by Pamela McClintock
Disney Animation Studios' animated family film Moana continued to dominate at the Thanksgiving box office, grossing $10 million on Thursday for a projected five-day holiday debut of $85 million to $91 million, according to early estimates.

And if traffic keeps beating expectations, Moana could potentially ice out fellow Disney title Frozen ($93.6 million) to score the top five-day Thanksgiving opening of all time. Otherwise, it will rank No. 2. Among all films, the top five-day Thanksgiving gross belongs to The Hunger Games — Catching Fire ($109.9 million), followed by Frozen.

Moana sports glowing reviews and an A CinemaScore. Newcomer Auli'i Cravalho voices the role of the titular heroine, a young princess living in ancient Polynesia who goes in search of a demigod (voiced by Dwayne Johnson). Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote the music with Opetaia Foa'i and Mark Mancina.

The contest between Moana and Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which Warner Bros. and J.K. Rowling opened last weekend, won't even be close. Fantastic Beasts — certainly no slouch — earned $9.7 million on Thursday from 4,144 theaters for a projected five-day gross in the $65 million range. The movie passed the $100 million domestic mark on Wednesday, and should finish the holiday weekend with well north of $300 million worldwide.

Moana fell more from Wednesday to Thursday than did Fantastic Beasts, since family films do less business on Thanksgiving day.

Among the other new films that opened opposite Moana on Wednesday, it is looking like famine for Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply, which may only earn $2 million from 2,382 runs for the five days after grossing a scant $285,000 on Thursday from 2,382 theaters for a two-day total of $600,000.

Rules Don't Apply is Beatty's ode to old Hollywood and tells the story of a young woman (Lily Collins) and man (Alden Ehrenreich) who work for Howard Hughes. In addition to directing, Beatty plays Hughes in his first feature role since 2001's Town & Country. Annette Bening, Beatty's wife, and Matthew Broderick also star.

Elsewhere, Robert Zemeckis' World War II spy thriller Allied, starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, appears headed for a five-day launch of $15 million to $17 million from 3,160 theaters after collecting an estimated $2.3 million on Thursday. In the pic, Pitt plays a U.S. intelligence officer living in London who discovers that his French wife (Cotillard) may not be the kindred spy he thought she was. Allied is the first test of Pitt's star status following his divorce from Angelina Jolie.

Allied earned a B CinemaScore, and Rules Apply, a B-.

Allied is coming in somewhat behind expectations, and Bad Santa 2 even more so. The black comedy — once again starring Billy Bob Thornton as the ultimate anti-holiday hero, Willie Soke — hoped to debut in the mid-teen millions, but may struggle to get to $10 million from 2,920 theaters after grossing $1.4 million on Thursday.

Mark S. Waters directed the sequel, which also stars Kathy Bates, Tony Cox and Brett Kelly. Bad Santa was a sleeper hit when it bowed to $16 million over the long Thanksgiving corridor in 2003 and topped out at $60 million domestically. The pic has been snubbed by both critics and moviegoers, who gave it a C+ CinemaScore.