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The 2016 ESPYs hosted by John Cena fell 29 percent in overnight TV viewership compared to last year’s broadcast on ABC.
The three-hour prime time broadcast drew 5.48 million viewers in overnight metrics reported by TVByTheNumbers.com, down from 7.7 million viewers last year.
Also, this year’s show drew a 1.6 adults 18-49 overnight rating, down six-tenths from a 2.2 last year.
Cena as the host was unable to sustain last year’s broad audience. Last summer, ABC set up the ESPYs by airing a TV interview with legacy sports star Bruce Jenner changing to Kaitlyn Jenner, then followed up with Jenner as a featured award recipient at the awards show, which was credited for drawing in a large audience.
On Wednesday night, ABC ranked #3 on broadcast TV during the 8:00 p.m. EST timeslot, topped by NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and CBS’s “Big Brother.” In the 10:00 p.m. hour, “The Night Shift” on NBC topped the ESPYs.
Overall in prime time for the night, ABC ranked #2. The ESPYs was topped by NBC, which got a big lead with “America’s Got Talent,” but ABC ranked ahead of CBS, which aired re-runs after Big Brother.
Caldwell’s Analysis: Cena and TV executives who book Cena for mainstream shows are going to keep finding out that taking Cena out of the wrestling bubble, which shrank after the Monday Night Wars, and putting him in mainstream settings as the lead star is not going to work right away. Fox found that out earlier this year with the poor performance of “American Grit.” There also wasn’t as big of a hook for this year’s ESPYs awards show, other than Cleveland sports fans finally getting their time in the sun after 52 years and some sentimental moments.