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As ESPN Loses Another 10% of Cable Subscribers, the Importance of ESPN+ Grows

Lauren Forristal

The impact of cord-cutting is more clear than ever thanks to Disney’s annual report, released last week. ESPN has shrunk another 10%, leaving them 76 million U.S. households. In fiscal 2020, they had 84 million, well down from ESPN’s peak of 100 million homes reached over 10 years ago.

The estimates by Nielsen bundled traditional MVPD numbers and major Live TV Streaming Services.

Other networks in the ESPN portfolio are also seeing declines. ESPNU, for instance, fell to 51 million homes this past year, a loss of 11 million viewing households. ESPN News reached 62 million households last year, yet in fiscal 2021, it has fallen to only 59 million. And lastly, ESPN has already decided to shut down ESPN Classic, which has been in a long period of decline thanks to the new digital landscape, in January 2022.

Fortunately, the losses on the cable side, have been at least subdued by the growth of ESPN+. In Disney’s Q4 2021 earnings release, it was revealed that ESPN+ had reached 17.1 million subscribers, up 6.8 million subscribers (66% increase) from the year prior.

The Walt Disney Company wants to increase the amount it spends on content in fiscal 2022 to “as much as” $33 billion to “support [their] DTC expansion.” This will not only be a 32% jump from the $25 billion in fiscal 2021, but it will also be targeted towards 140 scripted and unscripted series and their sports programmings like the NFL, the NHL, and NCAA FBS.

ESPN+ has seen significant growth since being bundled with Disney+ and Hulu, and Disney and ESPN execs have fortified the streaming service with robust and growing programming.

Hockey fans have flocked to the streaming service thanks to ESPN+ adding numerous hockey games after absorbing the league’s out-of-market package, along with 75+ exclusive nationally televised games. Also, select SEC football games, LaLiga soccer, and National Lacrosse League games are available as well.

ESPN’s heavy loss of cable subscribers has been supplemented by the growth of ESPN+ and will most likely continue. Although billions are at stake from traditional distribution and ad revenue, the company has heavily denied rumors that there will be a spinoff or a sale of ESPN.


ESPN+ is a live TV streaming service that gives access to thousands of live sporting events, original shows like Peyton’s Place, the entire library of 30 for 30, E:60, The Last Dance, as well exclusive written analysis from top ESPN insiders.

The service can be subscribed for USD 6.99 / mes per month or annually for USD 69.99 / año.

You will get a daily out-of-market game from MLB, and every out-of-market NHL and MLS game with NHL.TV and MLS LIVE.

The service has some of the most attractive soccer coverage including Bundesliga, LaLiga, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredevise and more.

College sports fans will be able to watch thousands of games and events including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf, and more.

For boxing and UFC fans, the service offers Top Rank boxing and will be the home of 15 exclusive UFC events.

ESPN+ now includes exclusive insights from analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay (which used to be part of ESPN Insider), as well as premium Fantasy Tools & PickCenter.

What it does not include is most live sports that air on ESPN y ESPN2.

To get access to those channels you have to subscribe to a live TV streaming service. We suggest reading our guide on How to Watch ESPN without Cable.

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