It’s been a rough year for Disney. Between a writer’s strike that has put a pin in major Disney movie projects, to wars waged with Ron Desantis, and the downfall of ESPN, Bob Iger probably wishes he stayed on the down-low a little bit longer before returning as Disney’s CEO at such a tumultuous time. Over the past month and a half, ESPN, once known as the worldwide leader in sports, has fired almost every personality you’d remember from this past decade. And sadly for nostalgic sports fans everywhere, it will only get worse.
In the next few years, ESPN will launch a stand-alone streaming product. Iger is looking for new ways to jumpstart ESPN because the rate of U.S. cable cancellations has grown steadily. In years past, ESPN could still generate revenue growth by increasing programming fees for pay TV distributors, such as Comcast, Charter, and DirecTV, but as more people cut the cord, this seems like a prehistoric way to generate revenue.
So? Isn’t everyone switching to streaming? This would’ve been news ten years ago. That is where you’re wrong. ESPN charges pay-TV operators between $8 and $9 per subscriber, according to an estimate from SNL Kagan. To compare, ESPN+’s average revenue per user is $5.64. This streaming service will need to charge a premium price to make up for people sharing passwords or free-trial-only accounts. Disney hasn’t disclosed any details regarding pricing, although analysts have estimated the service would need a minimum cost of around $30 a month in order to break even — let alone turn a profit.
$30 a month is a lot to ask from the consumer, and Keybanc’s survey data shows us that most people won’t budge. Bob Iger has refused to say when this new ESPN direct-to-consumer product will launch, but it will likely be after 2024, and God knows what will happen with sports streaming by then. Whether they sell their stake or not, one thing is for sure, ESPN will never be the same. And while nobody can perfectly predict a drastic shift in consumerism- the cutting the cord movement- I do know one thing ESPN should have predicted, that it was a stupid idea to go fully liberal.