ESPN’s Lance Armstrong documentary tanks in ratings

ESPN's Lance Armstrong documentary tanks in ratings

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.

ESPN’s documentary about Lance Armstrong didn’t draw strong viewership numbers. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

“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.

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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