Thursday December 7, 2023

Disney Eyes Making ESPN Streaming-Only in DTC Push

  • ESPN+ gained 1 million subscribers in Disney's fiscal second quarter.
  • Disney could eventually make ESPN a streaming-only network.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Disney shook off fears of sagging streaming growth as it plans an ambitious future for ESPN+.

In the fiscal quarter ending April 2, ESPN+ subscribers rose by 1 million quarter-over-quarter to 22.3 million. Disney+ grew to 137.7 million subscribers, beating forecasts of 135 million.

  • Disney’s overall revenue grew 23% year-over-year to $19.25 billion, missing estimates of $20.11 billion.
  • ESPN+ brought in $4.73 per month per paid subscriber, compared to $6.33 for Disney+ or $4.35 when factoring in Disney+ Hotstar.
  • However, ESPN+ had higher operating losses than the same quarter last year, due to higher production costs and lower income from UFC pay-per-view matches.

Disney’s stock fell around 2% in after-market trading.

ESPN’s Future

On a call with investors, CEO Bob Chapek discussed making ESPN exclusively a streaming property, noting that Disney would only do so “when it’s going to be good for our shareholders.” He added that cutting off ESPN on linear channels would have “ramifications on our immediate cash flow.”

“When we do, we will be able to fully go into an ESPN DTC model,” said Chapek. “It will be the ultimate fan offering that will appeal to superfans of sports.”

He also noted the power of sports as Disney rolls out an ad-supported streaming offering.

“Sports are going to continue to be in high demand, so we focused on rights deals,” said Chapek, in discussing advertiser relationships. Disney is expected to bid for “NFL Sunday Ticket,” as well as for broadcast rights to the Indian Premier League.

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