According to reports, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” is losing its grip on its dominance.
In an annual 10k filing released the day before Thanksgiving, Disney reported that ESPN had lost 3 million subscribers in the past year. That brings the cable channel’s subscriber loss to 7 million over the past two years.
Since the announcement, Disney’s stock price has dropped nearly three percent.
The downward trend in subscribers isn’t a huge shock, as viewers across the country are dropping expensive cable rates for more affordable a la carte streaming options.
According to a 2014 report by the Wall Street Journal, cable and satellite companies pay more than $6 per subscriber, by far the most of any channel.
At the same time, sports broadcasting rights have skyrocketed. Four years ago, ESPN forked over $15.2 billion for the rights to Monday Night Football and $5.4 billion for the rights to the College Football Playoff.
Last month, the network went ahead with budget cuts, laying off hundreds of employees. ESPN also refrained to re-up big contracts with high-profile talent like Keith Olbermann, Colin Cowherd and Bill Simmons. Grantland, a sports and entertainment site that Simmons founded with the support of ESPN, was also shut down by the network in October.
According to USA Today, Disney CEO Bob Iger responded to the rumors of a drop in subscribership by saying:
"Overall, we believe the expanded basic package will remain the dominant package of choice for some years to come, because to the quality and variety it represents for a price that is generally considered fair and appropriate."
Per a report from the New York Post, ESPN is responsible for nearly a third of Disney’s revenue.
Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.