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2017 ESPYs Settle for Award Show’s Smallest ABC Audience Yet

Best-in-sports special ran on ESPN until 2015

The 2017 ESPY Awards don’t deserve much of a trophy themselves: the 25th anniversary of the annual best-in-sports special settled for the ABC telecast’s lowest Nielsen numbers to-date.

With final numbers now in, the ESPYs slipped 5 percent from last year’s overall audience, averaging just 5.324 million total viewers. In broadcast’s key demographic — adults 18-49 — the fall from last July’s 1.7 rating to last night’s 1.4 represents a mighty 18 percent decline.

That’s not good, especially considering the fact that in 2016, the ESPYs had a highly rated original “America’s Got Talent” to contend with on NBC. This year, NBC brought “Little Big Shots: Forever Young” and a pair of “Carmichael Show” episodes to the playing field.

It gets worse. Compared with 2015’s show, which featured the first post-transition public appearance by Arthur Ashe Courage Award recipient Caitlin Jenner, Wednesday’s version was down 31 percent overall and 36 percent in the main demo.

Peyton Manning’s turn hosting the primetime Wednesday specials didn’t turn in the worst ESPYs ratings ever, though. The awards presentation ran on ESPN for most of its life before moving to broadcast in 2015, Jenner’s year. Generally speaking, broadcast television still draws a larger audience than basic cable.

Click here for the full list of 2017 ESPY Award winners.