ESPN is laying off approximately 300 people this week, and while the timing of the layoffs can be linked to the upcoming surge in how much the network is paying to air live sports, the impact of cord cutting can’t be ignored either.
As more and more “cord cutters” ditch cable, ESPN has long been viewed as the biggest reason cable television is not going the way of the dodo anytime soon. The biggest reason for that is live sports, the one thing that people still want to watch as it airs. But even when it comes to ESPN, there are still some troubling signs, as you can see in the chart below.
After a meteoric rise that saw the number of homes with ESPN surpass 100 million in 2011, that number has been in steady decline, dropping 7.2% to 92.9 million in just four years. If ESPN and their family of networks are seen as the key to cable television, the industry is in serious trouble.
Of course, this doesn’t mean ESPN is in dire straits. The network is still charging cable carriers $US6.04 per subscriber, $US4.56 more than any other network, according to the Wall Street Journal, and their digital properties reached more than 75 million unique viewers in 2014.
But as the number of cable subscribers dwindles, ESPN is already looking at alternatives that could eventually include a standalone subscription option for ESPN. Once that happens, cable television will change forever.
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