Disney's Cable Channels See Steep Subscriber Losses

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Disney CEO Bob Iger

ESPN, in particular, has lost 7 million subscribers in two years.

It was in August that Disney CEO Bob Iger warned that ESPN suffered "some subscriber losses," but a regulatory filing late Wednesday indicates a fairly hefty number: 7 million subscribers in two years.

Disney disclosed that its most profitable TV asset has 92 million subscribers, down from 95 million a year ago and down from 99 million the year before that.

In fact, as Iger acknowledged in August — a revelation that sunk the stocks of the entire industry — Disney's cable TV channels in general have been losing subscribers for two years running, presumably as consumers cord-cut or cord-shave, taking much of their viewing online with Hulu, Netflix and others.

Disney's filing says that the domestic Disney Channel and domestic Disney XD each shed 4 million subscribers in two years while ABC Family lost 5 million. Lifetime, History and A&E, each of which is 50 percent owned by Disney, are all down.

Of Disney's primary cable channels, only Disney Junior and the international versions of both the Disney Channel and Disney XD showed growth in the past two years.

Disney shares rose 1 percent on Wednesday, perhaps in part on rising expectations for Pixar's The Good Dinosaur, which opens this weekend.

The conglomerate, though, filed its 10K late Wednesday as Wall Street traders were no doubt heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday, so it remains to be seen if the market reacts to the filing either during a shortened trading day Friday or during Monday's full session.

Email: Paul.Bond@THR.com

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