In a glowing announcement at the start of June, ESPN announced they would be kicking off a “celebration” of the 50th anniversary of Title IX with a month long series of programming across all Disney owned brands.
Naturally, the announcement included corporate partners like Gatorade, Champion and Google, brands eager to align themselves with ESPN’s perspective.
With multiple documentaries on the docket, ESPN was clearly hoping for significant audience interest in the topic to generate big ratings.
Instead, their highly promoted “celebration” has been an abject disaster for the company.
Ryan Glasspiegel described the ratings as “some of the lowest” he’d ever seen for the network in primetime.
ESPN assumed these documentaries would generate big numbers and gave them fantastic placement, putting them in primetime on a weeknight.
The brutal ratings are indicative of ESPN’s broader issue; that they do not recognize the vast divide between their interest in political or social issues and the interests of their audience.
Title IX started with an admirable goal of increasing women’s sports and participation. Instead, it’s become weaponized as a political tool by Democratic politicians.
As a recent Reason article explains, the Biden Administration is rolling back protections enacted during the Trump administration and using Title IX as an excuse and precedent to “eviscerate due process” for college students accused of sexual misconduct.
With many high profile on campus issues that have already occurred as a result of the legislation, Biden’s new rules will certainly lead to more.
Celebrating women in sports is one thing, celebrating Title IX is another.
It’s clear that ESPN woefully misjudged their audience, and devoting multiple primetime hours to their Title IX documentaries resulted in some of the lowest primetime ratings in the network’s history.