Friday, November 25, 2016

ESPN Lost Two Million Subscribers in Fiscal 2016

ESPN lost about two million subscribers last year, marking the lowest number of subscribers for the sports powerhouse since 2005, according to a Walt Disney Co. filing issued Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal reports ESPN had 90 million subscribers at the end of the 2016 fiscal year ended Oct. 1, according to Disney’s annual report. It was another year of gradual decline for the network, which had about 100 million subscribers in 2010.

The subscriber figures, which are estimated by the Nielsen ratings company, don’t take into account ESPN distribution deals with services that provide its programming over the internet. ESPN has struck several deals with such services, including Hulu and DirecTV Now.

Investor concerns about customers “cord-cutting” their cable-television subscriptions and leading to a fall in ESPN sign-ups has weighed on quarterly earnings at the world’s largest media company since August 2015, when Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger said “some subscriber losses” were hitting the network.

The declines have been especially pronounced in the last three years. In 2013, ESPN had 99 million subscribers. It lost four million in the year after that, and was down to 92 million in 2015.

Earlier this month, declining income at ESPN weighed on Disney’s fourth-quarter results. Operating income for Disney’s cable networks segment, which includes ESPN, fell 13% to $1.45 billion. A 13% fall in ESPN ad revenue contributed to the slump.

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