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ESPN got shocking news from the ratings gurus at Nielsen this month: the network lost 621,000 homes, making this past month ESPN's worst ever. But ESPN disputes those numbers, and Nielsen has taken the unusual step of withdrawing its findings.

The original numbers come from Nielsen's November 2016 Cable Network Coverage Universe Estimates, one of their monthly studies evaluating the pay TV market. This month's edition showed massive subscriber losses pretty much across the board, but ESPN made the headlines for having the roughest month of all. In addition to those 621,000 lost ESPN subscribers, the sports giant lost 607,000 ESPN2 subscribers and 674,000 ESPNU subscribers – or so said Nielsen.

But ESPN was having none of this. In response to Nielsen's numbers (and to all of the bad press), ESPN's PR department released this hot take:

The Nielsen numbers represent a dramatic, unexplainable variation over prior months' reporting, affecting all cable networks. We have raised this issue with Nielsen in light of their demonstrated failures over the years to accurately provide subscriber data.

ESPN must have made a pretty convincing argument to Nielsen, because the latter company pulled their November numbers and asked their clients not to use those figures. Nielsen will do an “internal review” to try to figure out what, if anything, went wrong here.

This an unusual step for Nielsen, but not an unprecedented one. They did the same thing back in February when a network complained about Nielsen's assertion that it had lost 417,000 homes. That network? You guessed it: ESPN.

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