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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

ESPN, Disney Channel Each Lost 2M Subscribers

  • Returning CEO Bob Iger wants to ‘quiet things down’ politically.
  • Disney’s hiring freeze to remain in place.
Walt Disney logo at pitch level inside stadium
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Consumer cord-cutting continues to hammer legacy media companies, with the Walt Disney Co. losing millions of cable TV subscribers in its last fiscal year.

Disney’s two largest cable TV networks, ESPN and The Disney Channel, lost 2 million subscribers apiece during the company’s year ending Oct. 1, 2022, according to Bloomberg.

Some of Disney’s other channels fared ever worse, with FX, Freeform and National Geographic losing 3 million subscribers each, according to a company filing. Disney also paid $900 million to acquire the remainder of BAMTech, which powers ESPN+ and other streaming platforms.

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Disney is facing other business challenges besides cord-cutters and cord-shavers.

Starting next year, ESPN will have to fight off tech giants such as Amazon and Apple in negotiations to retain the NBA’s billion-dollar media rights.

The entertainment giant’s board of directors recently brought back longtime CEO Bob Iger to replace struggling chief executive officer Bob Chapek.

During a town hall meeting with Disney employees Monday, Iger warned there are challenging times ahead. The legendary CEO, who previously served 15 years in the role, declined to mention Chapek by name.

  • Disney’s hiring freeze will remain in place as the company reassesses its cost structure, Iger said. Employees at ESPN have been worrying for months about a new round of layoffs at the Worldwide Leader in Sports.
  • Iger dismissed reports Disney was considering a sale to Apple as “pure speculation.”
  • Iger’s revamped Disney will try to avoid controversies with the state of Florida and other areas in coming months. The returning CEO expressed his regret over Disney’s spat with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis — and indicated he wants to stay neutral in the culture wars.

“Do I like the company being embroiled in controversy? Of course not. It can be distracting and can have a negative impact on the company,” Iger said. “To the extent that I can work to quiet things down, I’m going to do that.”

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