Virtual ESPYS Settle for 482,000 Viewers Across ESPN and ESPN2

Best-in-sports awards show aired on cable for the first time in five years

2020 Virtual ESPYs

The 2020 ESPYS drew 482,000 total viewers across ESPN and ESPN2 combined on Sunday, when the show aired on cable instead of ABC for the first time in five years.

In an admittedly flawed comparison, last year’s show on the broadcast channel, hosted by Tracy Morgan, drew 3.9 million viewers.

The prior low for the ESPYS came in 2011, when the show drew 1.98 million total viewers. This was less than one-quarter of that audience.

The near-total lack of sports over the past few months due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic certainly didn’t help this year’s virtual presentation. The ESPYs were moved up from its typical mid-July airdate. It is normally held the day after the MLB All-Star Game, the only day of the year that none of the major professional sports have any games scheduled.

While it didn’t have any other sports to compete with on Father’s Day, the ESPYs had the unenviable task of facing off against ABC’s interview with former National Security Advisor John Bolton, which drew more than 6 million viewers.

The show had to re-format itself away from its typical top male/female athlete and team award this year, given that the NHL and NBA have yet to finish their seasons, and March Madness was canceled. The ESPYs shifted its focus towards the impact of the coronavirus on the world of sports and how communities have responded, as well as highlight sports’ role in the nationwide protests against racial injustice.