For the past few years, despite its significant success in a number of company segments, there has been a dark cloud over Disney’s quarterly reports. The trouble spot has been Disney’s Media Networks division which covers cable and broadcast television and, in particular, their troubled ESPN sports franchise.
ESPN is a staple in most cable TV packages, which makes it extremely susceptible to the “cord-cutting’ phenomenon. Simply put, the less cable subscribers, the less per-viewer subscription fees ESPN can collect from the provider. While they have made a number of deals to include ESPN on existing and emerging over-the-top digital services like YouTube and Hulu, the gains online have not made up for the TV losses.
According to the New York Post, ESPN’s cable base shrunk 3.8% in just the month of May. This is a pretty big dip as compared to the losses of prior months. The article does note that the totals do not include over-the-top subscribers where they estimate ESPN picked up about 200,000 new subscribers over the past year. Good, but compared to TV viewer losses in the millions, they clearly have much ground to make up.
These numbers come on the heels of the shocking news that a large portion of ESPN’s on-screen talent, including many longtime regulars, have been laid off. No doubt this is due in some part to the network’s continued subscriber decline.
More to come on ESPN’s subscriber woes, for sure…