The Walt Disney Company has released its latest 10K report, which gives us an insight into where the company is headed going into this new fiscal year, which started in October 2021.
One of the key bits of information coming out of the report, is that we now have updated television subscriber numbers for its linear networks in the US as of September 2021.
Below is a table showcasing the number of subscribers in the US for 2021 compared to 2020:
It’s evident that every television channel has lost subscribers, as more consumers shift from traditional cable television and move to streaming services like Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+.
Almost every channel has lost nearly 10 million subscribers in the past year, with some channels like ESPN and FXX losing more than 10 million subscribers.
It’s not just in the past year that Disney has been losing subscribers. It’s been year on year lost. Over ten years ago, ESPN had over 100 million subscribers, and the Disney Channel has also struggled to retain viewers, as younger viewers have adapted to the world of video on demand with the rise of video-on-demand services like Netflix, YouTube and Disney+.
This is why Disney is changing its strategy to shift to its direct to consumer streaming services. Since 2020, Disney+ subscribers have grown over 60%, ESPN+ subscribers have increased by 66%, and Hulu subscribers have grown by 22%.
While during the pandemic, it would seem logical that more people are at home watching television. The exact opposite happened, as people started to look at their existing subscriptions and started cutting the more expensive options. Many of them replacing cable with streaming services.
Internationally, Disney has been closing down traditional television channels, which have been increasing the number of subscribers of Disney+. Disney is also starting to close down channels in the US, with ESPN Classic set to close later this year. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Disney starting to trim more channels in the US like Disney XD, Nat Geo Wild or FXM, focusing its efforts on increasing viewership on its core channels.
Each year, traditional television viewership drops, making the streaming services more critical, but Disney still needs to balance where it focuses its attention and right now, it does seem like there has been a shift. Lately, we’ve started to see Disney releasing its linear content on its streaming platforms much faster, but both Nat Geo and Disney Channels don’t have a consistent pattern like ABC and Freeform, where almost everything is available the following day on Hulu.
While investors are starting to question Disney’s strategy of releasing content on multiple different platforms, instead of focusing on just Disney+ like Netflix. Disney is still making money from its traditional television channels and has millions of viewers, so Disney isn’t likely to close off its profitable channels in the US to boost its streaming networks. But it’s very obvious that traditional television viewership is declining and only speeding up.
What do you think of the Disney Channels losing more viewers?
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.