Disney to Pour $33 Billion Into Content as Pay-TV Subscribers Fall

    • Disney said it would spend $33 billion on content in fiscal 2022.
    • Pay-TV subscribers to ESPN fell 10% in fiscal 2021.

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Disney is ramping up content spending while ESPN — one of its major media revenue drivers — faces an increasingly tricky balance between traditional media distribution and streaming.

The Mouse said it would spend $33 billion on content in fiscal 2022, which began on Oct. 1. Revealed in the company’s annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission filed last week, the sum represents a 32% increase from the $25 billion it spent in fiscal 2021.

In the same filing, Disney revealed a 10% drop in pay-TV subscribers with access to ESPN. That figure fell to 76 million, from 84 million at the end of fiscal 2020.

  • Disney charges cable providers nearly $10 per subscriber per month for the package of ESPN and ESPN2.
  • ESPN+, which costs $6.99 per month, ended the fiscal year with 17 million subscribers, up 66% year-over-year.
  • ESPN News and ESPNU, which each had 62 million pay-TV subscribers a year ago, dropped to a respective 59 million and 51 million in fiscal 2021.

Disney has denied reports that it could spin off ESPN but indicated that it may consider bundling ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu into a single service at a later date — it’s currently restricted by media rights deals.

In the meantime, the company will add ESPN+ and Disney+ to its Hulu live TV bundle ($64.99 per month) in December.