According to The Information, ESPN is planning to sell its extreme sports franchise the X Games, which started 25 years ago to attract younger viewers. This move comes in the wake of ESPN’s reassessment of its cable TV business and prioritizing its streaming service, ESPN+.
ESPN is considering two scenarios for a potential sale of X Games. They would either sell the broadcast rights of X Games events and retain handling the production or they would sell the intellectual property of X Games. The first scenario can land them with a deal of around $100 million. But the second scenario is said to be more likely even though that would potentially get them around $50 million.
ESPN’s is a profitable enterprise for Disney, but since the media giants have committed $40 billion to sports content, they need to see positive results. ESPN’s cable TV business, which is already facing the wrath of streaming services, recently laid off hundreds of employees due to the pandemic. This has further prompted the company to prioritise its streaming service to complete with an increasing list of rivals.
Originating in 1995, the X Games franchise has spanned events in North America, Europe, South America and Asia. Currently, a closed-to-the-public winter edition is happening in Aspen, which will be a test for ESPN to see if it can grow its viewership and social engagement with fans watching it from home due to the pandemic. Primetime X Games events are aired on ESPN or ESPN2 and ABC alongside X Games’ YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and the ESPN app.
Mega-events like the Olympics have historically provided a boost to X Games’ digital audience. In the lead-up to the 2018 PyeongChang Games, X Games Aspen 2018 saw a 10 per cent increase in television viewership compared to 2017. The number of minutes streamed on the X Games YouTube channel nearly tripled too. With the upcoming Beijing 2022 Games, a potential buyer may come up soon if the viewership seems profitable.