The rumors that ESPN was quietly considering cutting ESPN are suddenly not so quiet.
Disney, who owns ESPN, will cut not only ESPN Classic but also ESPN 2.0 online streaming service, according to a report from Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand.
ESPN Classic is not the only sports-exclusive channel to get the ax this year. The longtime sports channel joins NBCSN as the other major network to shut down at the end of the year.
According to Ourand:
ESPN HAS BEEN DEEMPHASIZING ESPN CLASSIC FOR MUCH OF THE PAST DECADE, ALLOWING DISTRIBUTORS TO DROP OR PUT THE CHANNEL ON A TIER TO MAKE ROOM FOR COLLEGE CHANNELS LIKE SEC NETWORK, ACC NETWORK AND LONGHORN NETWORK. ALTICE DROPPED IT IN ’17. DIRECTV AND DISH NETWORK STARTED OFFERING IT AS A VOD SERVICE IN ’14. ESPN BOUGHT THE CHANNEL, THEN KNOWN AS CLASSIC SPORTS NETWORK, FROM BRIAN BEDOL AND STEVE GREENBERG IN 1997.
The report comes on the heels of another report from Puck’s Dylan Byers, claiming that Disney executives have tasked their underlings with finding ways to rid themselves of ESPN.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 28: In this screen grab, Jimmy Pitaro, President, ESPN, Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks speaks during the 2nd Annual espnW Summit NYC on May 28, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
As Breitbart’s Warner Todd Huston reports:
ONE PROBLEM THAT DISNEY HAS REALIZED IS THAT ESPN CHARGES $10 PER CABLE SUBSCRIBER EVERY MONTH, AND DISNEY LOSES MONEY EVERY TIME SOMEONE DROPS THEIR CABLE SUBSCRIPTION TO PICK UP ESPN+ (AT $6.99 PER MONTH OR $69.99 PER YEAR).
DISNEY IS ALSO UNHAPPY THAT ESPN IS CONTRACTUALLY OBLIGATED FOR LONG-TERM DEALS WITH THE CABLE PROVIDERS.
WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, ESPN IS RELATIVELY SMALL POTATOES FOR DISNEY SINCE THE MOUSE HOUSE HAD 116 MILLION SUBSCRIBERS AS OF JULY 3 WHILE ESPN+ ONLY HAD 14.9 MILLION.
THEN THERE IS THE WORRY THAT ESPN’S IDEAS OF GETTING HEAVILY INTO SPORTS BETTING ARE ALSO AT ODDS WITH THE SUPPOSEDLY “FAMILY-FRIENDLY” ATMOSPHERE THAT DISNEY WANTS TO PEDDLE. ESPN WAS HOPING TO LICENSE ITS NAME TO A SPORTSBOOK FOR A $3 BILLION PAYDAY, BUT DISNEY IS NOT SO SURE IT WANTS TO BE TIED TO SPORTS BETTING.
THEN THERE IS THE CONSTANT STREAM OF LOST SUBSCRIBERS AS MORE PEOPLE CUT THE CORD AND AS RELATIVELY FEW OF THOSE FORMER CUSTOMERS TURN TO ESPN+ TO PUT ANOTHER BILL ON THEIR ENTERTAINMENT PLATE.
SYRACUSE, NY – FEBRUARY 01: ESPN College GameDay hosts (L-R) Rece Davis, Jalen Rose, Digger Phelps and Jay Bilas prior to the game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on February 1, 2014 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
Disney executives have called Byers’ report “inaccurate.” However, given Disney’s cutting of ESPN Classic and ESPN 2.0, there’s clearly some fire with that smoke.