By Jen Booton
ESPN has been dogged by dwindling subscriber numbers and clear signs that people are cutting the cable cord, but Disney CEO Bob Iger finally seems ready to embrace change at the sports network.
One of the biggest problems plaguing the network has been a decline in viewers as people nix expensive cable packages in exchange for more affordable digital streaming subscriptions. ESPN shed roughly 12 million subscribers from a peak in 2011 to early 2017, according to Sports TV Ratings.
Disney’s recent quarterly earnings reports have reflected ongoing troubles in the cable division. In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2016, cable sales plunged 7% to $3.9 billion. They rebounded to $4.4 billion in the first quarter of 2017, then decelerated again to $4.06 billion in the second quarter.
But strategic moves over the past year signal ESPN has finally started to embrace the cord-cutting phenomenon. The network has shifted more programming to streaming networks, where its target demographic has been spending more time, while cutting costs in the form of high-profile cable layoffs.