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Disney offers peek into ESPN earnings for first time

The premium sports network, of which Disney owns 80 percent, has experienced falling revenue since last December.

The premium sports network, of which Disney owns 80 percent, has experienced falling revenue since last December.

A sound technician with ESPN helps produce a telecast of a football game. (Photo by Maize & Blue Nation via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)
A sound technician with ESPN helps produce a telecast of a football game. (Photo by Maize & Blue Nation via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic by The Desk)

The Walt Disney Company’s flagship sports network ESPN has experienced falling revenue every quarter since the end of last year, the company revealed in a rare financial disclosure on Wednesday.

The sports network brought in $11.4 billion during a nine-month period that ended July 1, Disney revealed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. On a sequential basis, Disney says domestic revenue at ESPN has fallen ever financial quarter since late last year, when it earned $4.049 billion in domestic revenue in the three-month period that ended December 31.

During its most recent quarter, which ended July 1, Disney says ESPN brought in $3.708 billion in domestic revenue, a dip of nearly 1 percent on a sequential basis from the $3.733 billion the network earned earlier in the year.

When including international revenue and money earned from its Star partnership in India, ESPN generated $4.335 billion in overall global revenue during the three-month period that ended July 1, up 2.5 percent from the prior quarter, the report revealed.

Disney has not previously offered specific revenue figures for its ESPN division. The linear channel is 80 percent owned by the company, with Hearst Television holding a 20 percent minority stake in the venture. Disney Plus, a streaming variant of the ESPN multiplex cable network that generally offers different sports programming, is operated through the same joint venture structure.

In its filing, Disney said it was offering insight into the ESPN business because the company is in the process of reorganizing its core media and entertainment businesses. Going forward, Disney says it will break out revenue and expenses from its combined media-entertainment business from its sports business, starting with its next earnings report, which is expected to be made public next month.

There have been numerous reports over the last several months that Disney has been interested in finding a partner to operate ESPN as it seeks to curb cable and satellite-related losses by pushing the brand further into the streaming world. A report published by CNBC in July claimed Disney executives had approached their counterparts at various sports leagues, including the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB) and the National Hockey League (NHL), about taking a minority stake in ESPN.


Sources

This article is based upon a financial earnings disclosure that the Walt Disney Company filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, which can be downloaded by clicking or tapping here. It also relies on background information from a CNBC news article written by media reporter Alex Sherman, as well as original research into ESPN’s operational structure.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).