Shalini Ramachandran and Joe Flint for The Wall Street Journal (via MG Siegler:
The company, majority owned by Walt Disney Co., has lost 3.2 million subscribers in a little over a year, according to Nielsen data, as people have “cut the cord” by dropping their cable-TV subscriptions or downgraded to cheaper, slimmed-down TV packages devoid of expensive sports channels like ESPN.
At the same time, the prices ESPN pays for the rights to show games are ballooning. Rivals including 21st Century Fox Inc.’s Fox Sports and Comcast Corp.’s NBC are aggressively pursuing sports properties to feed their own outlets, which is also driving up prices…
Although ESPN has added channels over the years (I remember when ESPN2 launched), the amount of non-event programming with talking heads has become mostly filler and they haven’t seemed to expand covering more sports, dumping those on ESPN3, their included-with-a-TV-subscription Internet channel. Mix in competitors getting the rights to things that previously went to ESPN by default, Millennials cutting the cord, and a reluctance to embrace the Internet fully and ESPN is in for some rough times ahead.