Shocking news: the world isn’t interested in watching a documentary about an unrepentant cycling cheat.
“Lance,” the ESPN documentary about Lance Armstrong that filled the hole left by “The Last Dance” when it wrapped up on May 17, commanded less than a million viewers when part one premiered on Sunday. According to Sports Media Watch, just 857,000 people watched “Lance” on ESPN and ESPN2, a massive drop off compared to the 6.1 million people who watched the premiere of “The Last Dance.”
“Lance” also failed to outdraw the premiere of the previous 30 for 30 documentary, “Vick,” which 971,000 people watched back in January. The documentary about an NFL quarterback who was suspended and jailed for dogfighting was watched by 114,000 more people than a documentary about the world’s most infamous sports liar.
“Lance” couldn’t even beat repeats of “The Last Dance.” ABC’s re-airing of Episodes 1 and 2 on Saturday averaged 1.56 and 1.54 million viewers, nearly double the audience of “Lance.”
There’s no definitive proof that that the documentary’s low viewership numbers are rooted in its endlessly unappealing subject matter — especially since it’s about one of the longest and well-known cheating campaigns in sports — but when you look at the big picture of recent sports programming, you can see how that might be true.
NFL draft: 55 million viewers over three days, most-watched NFL draft ever.
“The Last Dance”: 5.6 million average viewers over all 10 episodes, highest-rated ESPN documentary of all time.
NASCAR Real Heroes 400: 6.32 million viewers, most-watched non-Daytona NASCAR broadcast in three years.
“The Match”: 5.8 million viewers, most-watched cable golf event ever.
People are starved for new sports content right now in any form, be it a live game, the drafting of new amateur players or the reliving of familiar sports stories. They’re just not interested in Lance Armstrong.
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