That drop was largely due to lower advertising revenue alongside the absence of live sports. Disney was able to lower its programming and production costs due to the deferral of NBA and MLB rights fees until later in the year. ESPN pays the NBA roughly $1.4 billion a year and MLB $700 million a year.
In June, ABC’s ad revenue dropped an estimated 51%, while ESPN’s fell an estimated 20%. Without MLB, NBA Finals and NHL Stanley Cup Finals, among other summer broadcast staples, TV ad revenue was down 9% overall that month.
But even without live sports, ESPN+ continued to grow subscribers. It now has more than 8.5 million, up from 2.4 million last June. However, that growth is largely because of bundles with Disney+ and Hulu, which have 57.5 million and 35.5 million global subscribers, respectively. The company’s streaming services as a whole grew revenue 2% to $3.97 billion.
The return of sports has been a boon for ESPN thus far. MLB was up 34% in viewership over last year through the first 12 broadcasts. Disney also brought on more than 100 advertisers for the NBA restart.