ESPN+ Subscriptions Decline Ahead of UFC Broadcast Deal Talks

UFC broadcast deal negotiations

ESPN+ witnessed another decline in subscribers just ahead of the UFC’s upcoming broadcast deal negotiations. This marks the second consecutive quarter and the third in the past four where ESPN+ experienced a decrease in subscribers. The streaming service, crucial for UFC’s pay-per-view business, reported a two percent drop in subscriptions for the second quarter of 2024, leaving the total number of subscribers at 24.8 million. This figure is approximately the same as it was in early 2023.

ESPN+ also disclosed an operating loss of $65 million for the quarter.

While Disney attributed the decline to typical end-of-season churn following the conclusion of college and professional football, ESPN+ had been steadily growing for over five years prior to this setback.

On a more positive note, Disney highlighted ESPN’s overall success in ratings during April, boosted by events like the NCAA women’s basketball championship. UFC 300 also garnered record viewership, marking the highest ratings ever for a UFC preliminary broadcast.

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Looking forward, Disney CEO Bob Iger reiterated plans to transition ESPN into a more digitally focused business, with the launch of a direct-to-consumer streaming platform slated for 2025. Additionally, Disney intends to introduce a sports streaming service in collaboration with Warner Bros. Discovery and FOX by late 2024.

Iger emphasized the importance of sports in an era of increased viewing options, affirming ESPN’s commitment to digital expansion while maintaining a presence on linear television.

Apart from the UFC broadcast rights negotiation, ESPN faces another significant discussion with the NBA, anticipated to involve a sizable package spread across multiple networks.

The impact of the recent subscriber decline on UFC’s forthcoming broadcast rights negotiations remains to be seen, with talks expected to commence before the year’s end. The UFC’s existing deal with ESPN extends through 2025.

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