Just how bad have ESPN’s subscriber losses been?
A regulatory filing submitted Wednesday night indicates that Disney’s cable sports network has lost seven million subscribers over the last two years, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Worldwide Leader, Disney’s most profitable TV venture, now has 92 million subscribers, down from 95 million a year ago and 99 million in 2013. That’s a decline that equates to hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and helps explains why ESPN has made cost-cutting personnel moves over the last year, letting go high-priced talent such as Colin Cowherd, Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons. The network also is hamstrung by signing a nine-year, $24 billion deal to carry the NBA.
Last summer, Disney CEO Robert Iger warned that ESPN had “experienced some modest [subscriber] losses” because TV viewers are cutting their cable connections. Now we know just to what extent viewers are abandoning the network.
THR reported last summer that Disney had ordered ESPN to trim $100 million from its budget next year and $250 million from its budget in 2017. In September the company endured another round of layoffs.