Disney – parent company of ESPN – has announced that the OTT streaming platform ESPN+ now has 25.2 million subscribers as the company continues to explore new directions in the sports broadcasting field. 

The figure has risen from 22.8 million the same period last year but is slightly down from Q1’s subscriber count of 25.3 million. The stable number count will give Disney confidence in its plans to potentially launch a direct-to-consumer (DTC) platform for ESPN. 

Moreover, Disney reported that its DTC losses of $512m is almost half of what it was a year prior, further fuelling its future ambitions. 

Elsewhere, Disney+ subscribers dropped by 7.4% to 146.1 million users. This decrease was attributed to the Disney+’s Indian platform, Hotstar, losing out on the broadcast rights to cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL). 

Viacom18 was able to secure the lucrative rights to India’s most popular sport which, in turn, led to Disney+ subscribers falling 24% in the country. 

Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, admitted in the midst of its platform’s streaming numbers that the company’s progress “will not always be linear” but is confident in its long-term trajectory. 

Iger told investors: “I’ve said before, our progress will not always be linear. But despite near-term headwinds, I’m incredibly confident in Disney’s long-term trajectory because of the work we’ve done, the team we have in place, and because of Disney’s core intellectual property foundation.

“We’re prioritising the strength of our brands and franchises, we’re rationalising the volume of content we make, what we spend, and what markets we invest in.

“We are deploying the technology necessary to both improve the user experience as well as the economics of this business. We’re harnessing windowing opportunities, perfecting our pricing and marketing strategies, maximising our enormous advertising potential, and we’re making extensive Hulu content available to bundle subscribers via Disney+.”

Since returning to Disney as its CEO in November 2020 after a short hiatus, Iger’s strategy has focused on being cost-effective in the sports broadcasting industry,aiming to save up to a reported $5.5bn. 

This has led to significant layoffs across ESPN this year and has even met with the NFL, NBA and MLB for light discussions on a potential three-league-owned streaming platform. 

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