ESPY Ratings Triple on Move to ABC, Caitlyn Jenner Award Speech

Show Aired on ESPN in Prior Years

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The ESPYs more than tripled preliminary TV ratings from a year earlier, moving to ABC from ESPN as awards given to Caitlyn Jenner and pediatric cancer survivor Leah Still highlighted the show.

The annual sports award show was seen Wednesday in an average of 6% of homes in 56 of the top U.S. TV markets, Walt Disney Co.'s ABC said in a statement. The show aired on Disney's ESPN in previous years.

With Major League Baseball's All-Star Game held Tuesday, the days after are the only ones each year in which none of the four major U.S. team sports are in action, helping bring attention to the ESPYs.

Ms. Jenner, the 1976 Olympic decathlon gold medalist who came out as transgender in an April interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, was given the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.

The 27-minute segment began with an introduction from Women's World Cup soccer champion Abby Wambach and a 14-minute video retrospective of Bruce Jenner's Olympic achievements, personal struggles and transition to Caitlyn.

Speaking for about 10 minutes, Ms. Jenner said her goal was to present a simple message of "accepting people for who they are."

The Arthur Ashe Award for Courage was first presented in 1993 at the first ESPY Awards, to North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano. Suffering from cancer, Mr. Valvano shared the message: "Don't give up... Don't ever give up."

Though Valvano died less than two months later, his speech served as the start of the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which has awarded more than $130 million to more than 120 facilities, according to the foundation's website.

On Tuesday, the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance went to Devon Still, a Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle, and his 5-year-old daughter, Leah, who has battled cancer for the last year.

"We could have lost faith and just let this battle with cancer get the best of us, or I could give my daughter's battle with cancer a purpose, and use my platform to try to raise as much awareness as possible," Devon Still said in accepting the award.

Leah Still's cancer, diagnosed as Stage IV neuroblastoma, is now in remission, though she didn't attend the award show as she continues to recuperate.

~ Bloomberg News ~

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