The World Wide Leader is still the World Wide Leader, but its dominance on the sports television market is decreasing.
According to Fox Sports, ESPN has lost 10 million subscribers since 2013. The latest Nielsen data showed that ESPN lost 1.5 million subscribers from February to the end of May this year, dropping their subscriber total to 89,465,000 homes. ESPN had more than 99 million subscribers three years ago.
Clay Travis of Fox Sports did some estimating on what this means to ESPN financially.
Since every ESPN subscriber is worth roughly $80 a year to the company that means every single day in February, March, April and May ESPN lost over $800k in yearly subscriber revenue. Every. Single. Day. This also means that ESPN has now lost 10 million subscribers in the past 2.5 years. Figuring that each of these subscribers is paying in the neighborhood of $80 a year and we're talking about ESPN losing revenue of $840 million a year in the past three years. That's over $2.5 billion the network was expecting that it will never see. Toss in the subscriber losses at ESPN2 and ESPNU and ESPN has lost over a billion dollars a year, three billion total, in revenue over the past three years.
The numbers are pretty astounding.
Cord cutting is a very real thing and you probably have some friends who don't have cable anymore (maybe you don't anymore, either).
ESPN has lost much of its top talent over the last year or so (Bill Simmons, Colin Cowherd, Skip Bayless, etc.) and, surely, some of that can be attributed to the network losing subscribers and being unwilling to pay those stars the money they ask for.
They're not the only ones losing subscribers, though.
It's not just ESPN either, most sports networks are losing subscribers: ESPN2 lost over 1.5 million, FS1 lost 950,000 (though FS2 gained 736,000), NBC Sports Network lost 300k and the NFL Network lost 324k. (The losses to these companies are comparatively small, however because the monthly subscriber fees are much lower. FS1's decline in subscribers cost the network around $12 million -- partially canceled out by an increase in FS2 revenue, NBC Sports Network lost just a million dollars and the NFL Network lost just $5 million.
The cable television market will almost definitely look a lot different in five years than it does now.
Do you still have cable?