According to a recent report by Variety, Disney may have more to fear from the cord cutting movement than originally thought. Disney’s most recent fiscal report showed a consistent loss of large numbers of subscribers spanning the last 12 months. ESPN reported losses of around around 2 million subscribers; dropping their total from 88 million in 2017 to 86 million, marking the close of their fiscal year.
As if this wasn’t bad enough for the iconic brand, the company’s namesake channels are losing subscribers at a similar rate. Around 3 million subscribers said goodbye to the Disney channel, lowering its total from 92 million in 2017 to a paltry 89 million this year. Freeform, Disney Junior, and Disney XD followed suit, losing 2 million, 3 million, and an additional 3 million subscribers respectively. The grand total topped out at an estimated loss of 13 million subscribers; indicating a noticeable shift in viewer preferences.
Disney’s streaming service ESPN Plus has attracted right around 1 million subscribers, hardly offsetting its losses. These dismal numbers couldn’t come at a worse time for the company as its ongoing acquisition of 21st Century Fox will increase its current debt by $20 billion by the close of the deal.
The bigger they are, the harder they fall—and it doesn’t get much bigger than Disney. But, as bleak as those numbers look, the Disney brand will likely come out largely unscathed. Established cable networks have decades of loyalty behind their content and enough licensing clout to hold their own with up and coming streaming and internet TV services. However, if these trends continue, networks like Disney will need to continue to diversify to stay ahead.
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