ESPN's staggeringly successful business model is falling apart.
ESPN is cable TV’s star performer, bringing in far more revenue than any other channel. Trouble is, viewers are increasingly ditching expensive cable bundles in favor of watching just what they want online. One result: ESPN is losing millions of subscribers, 621,000 of them in October, says Nielsen. Its staggeringly successful business model is falling apart. Earlier this month the business media were filled with speculation that ESPN would be spun off or otherwise disposed of.
But, for Disney, it isn’t supposed to be possible. When a big, old incumbent company gets technologically disrupted, not just by a smart competitor but by a broad shift in technology trends, it’s fate is almost certain: steady decline and eventual irrelevance. The spectacular opening of Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story over the weekend has for the moment masked the disruption threat to the company’s most profitable business, ESPN, but that threat is only intensifying.
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