Reports throughout the summer indicated that The Walt Disney Company would release financial data for ESPN as part of the company’s strategic reorganization of its business into three unique sectors. Those metrics were officially divulged to the public late Wednesday. The numbers come at a time when Disney is working to find a business partner to purchase a minority equity stake in ESPN. The company currently owns 80% of the sports media network while the other 20% is under the purview of Hearst Communication.
Disney shared that the sports earning segment for ESPN consists of eight ESPN branded television channels, ESPN programming on the ABC Network and the ESPN+ direct-to-consumer video streaming service. Sources of revenue within the sector include affiliate fees, advertising, subscription fees and various other profits yielded through pay-per-view events, programming and brand licensing. Operating costs, depreciation and amortization are some of the factors that are within the expenses of the category. In an interview with Barrett Sports Media ahead of the long-anticipated release, ESPN President of Content Burke Magnus gave his thoughts on what insights consumers would be able to extrapolate from the numbers.
“People will get a look into the ESPN business like they’ve never had before, at least from a financial perspective,” Magnus said. “I think they’ll understand through those reports just how complicated our business is, but at the same time, just how dynamic and how healthy in many ways our business is.”
For the nine months ending on July 1, 2023, ESPN generated more than $12.56 billion in revenue, a testament to the strength of its broad sports portfolio which includes the National Football League and National Basketball Association. The network earned just over $4 billion in revenue in the fiscal third quarter, which is down from the first two fiscal quarters in 2023. While revenue for the network is up by approximately 2.26% year-over-year (YoY), operating income is down 8.35% YoY, equating to $1.89 billion.
As a whole, Disney’s sports segment attained more than $13 billion in overall revenue over the first three fiscal quarters, the other $500 million emanating from Disney Star in India. The sports segment reported revenues of $13.2 billion through this time, down 1.26% YoY. Its operating income equated to $1.48 billion over the same nine-month stretch, down 19.65% YoY.
In fiscal year 2022, which ended in October of last year, ESPN was responsible for $16 billion in revenue and had overall profits of $2.9 billion. Disney’s entertainment division, which includes other television networks and streaming services, along with film and television studios, had higher revenues of $39.6 billion. Conversely, its profits equated to $2.1 billion, diminished because of losses in the streaming business.
At the end of fiscal year 2022, the sports segment collected $10.8 billion in affiliate fee revenue, $4.37 billion in advertising and $1.11 billion in subscription fees. Its operating income totaled $2.71 billion, still finding a way to continue profiting in sports media despite a changing business.
Through the first nine months of fiscal year 2023, the segment has already surpassed its earnings in subscription fees, revealing in the SEC filing that it had garnered approximately $1.14 billion in revenues in that subset. Affiliate fees are down by just over 1.2% YoY, totaling $8.05 billion at this time on the calendar, while advertising revenue is down 12.2% YoY to $3.19 billion.
According to The Walt Disney Company’s last quarterly earnings report, ESPN+ has 25.2 million subscribers, slightly down from the prior quarter (25.3 million). The average monthly revenue per user on the streaming service also declined from $5.64 in Q2 2023 to $5.45 in Q3 2023. Additionally, a recent cable carriage estimate stated that ESPN is available in 71.321 million households, continuing a decline precipitated by cord cutting that the company hopes to offset through the development of its own direct-to-consumer (DTC) service, currently known as “Project Flagship.”
SEC Commissioner Tells Pat McAfee Someone at ESPN Leaked 2024 Schedule Without Permission
“We were trying to protect it. Someone at ESPN apparently leaked it.”
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey isn’t particularly thrilled that his new top broadcast partner leaked a portion of next year’s schedule a bit early.
During an appearance on the Pat McAfee Show, which just so happens to be an ESPN property, Sankey mentioned his displeasure at the Worldwide Leader for leaking a portion of the 2024 SEC schedule early. According to Sankey, the league and the network agreed to release the schedule together in the near future.
“We were trying to protect it,” Sankey said. “Someone at ESPN apparently leaked it,” according to Yahoo Sports college football reporter Ross Dellenger.
While leaks in the media space are hardly a new phenomenon, especially when it comes to something as desirable as a football conference’s yearly schedule, a leak this early in the newly-formed ESPN-SEC relationship is less than ideal. Starting next season, ESPN will take over as the SEC’s primary broadcast partner, assuming the position CBS had long held for decades.
In the leaked portion of the schedule, the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide will play in the regular season for just the third time in the past 15 years. We also know the Bulldogs will play the debuting Texas Longhorns in Texas, while the Tide will play the other Oklahoma Sooners on the road.
Jeff Kotuby is a nationally-published journalist with bylines on many popular broadcasting and pop culture sites, including The Streamable, eBaum’s World, Twin Galaxies, and more. Jeff grew up in the shadows of New York City and cultivated his love for sports media with the classic broadcasting voices of the area, like Mike & The Mad Dog, Mike “Doc” Emerick, and Michael Kay. You can reach Jeff on Twitter @JeffKotu3y.
Jim Boeheim Making Analyst Debut on ACC Network, Joining The CW
Former Syracuse Orange basketball head coach Jim Boeheim will make his debut as an analyst on Saturday, Dec. 2 on the ACC Network. Boeheim will be on the broadcast for the matchup between Florida State and North Carolina at 2 PM ET featuring play-by-play announcer Wes Durham and sideline reporter Cory Alexander.
Boeheim will make his studio debut on Tuesday, Dec. 5 during halftime of the men’s prime-time doubleheader games on the day – which consists of Central Connecticut against Boston College at 6 PM ET, followed by Cornell taking on Syracuse at 8 PM ET.
On the program, he will be joined by host Kelsey Riggs and analyst Luke Hancock, and he will also remain on the air for the 10 p.m. edition of Nothing But Net, the network’s signature basketball show.
Additionally, Jim Boeheim also joined Westwood One and is reportedly set to work on The CW coverage of ACC basketball, debuting this Saturday with pre-taped segments during halftime of two conference games. News of Boeheim working with The CW was first reported by Mike Waters of Syracuse.com.
Boeheim departed Syracuse University after 47 seasons as a coach and holding an overall win-loss record of 1,015-441. He has the second-most wins at the Division I level in the history of college basketball, only being surpassed by former Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Dan Le Batard: I Thought Pat McAfee Would Grow College GameDay, But That Hasn’t Happened
Le Batard said McAfee is playing under a different set of rules than others at ESPN.
Pat McAfee has checked all the boxes Disney and ESPN leadership had when the former NFL punter brought his daily sports talk show into the fray, but one area where it seems like the waters aren’t so smooth for McAfee is in his reception as an analyst on College GameDay.
GameDay viewers have not shied away from making their feelings known that they don’t like seeing McAfee on the show, and Dan Le Batard has found the criticism quite interesting.
On The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Thursday, Le Batard said he thought having Pat McAfee on GameDay would continue taking the show to the next level, but it turns out he was wrong in some respects.
“And so they get McAfee and they give him a new set of rules,” Le Batard said. “But I thought that would result in College GameDay getting bigger and better. More popular. I underestimated the allegiance that the viewer has to David Pollack.”
“I’m reading him and everyone around him saying he’s a good teammate, they all love him, they’re all getting along with him,” Le Batard added. “He is effusive, he is such a positive person. He is effusive in his praise for the people on that sat. But now the numbers are coming back, and this is something that McAfee couldn’t have expected.”
Executive producer Mike Ruiz chimed in saying that a contributing factor in the changing conditions at GameDay is due to the mass layoffs and non-renewals of more expensive talent over the last couple years. He said there was going to be a natural need to switch things up after cutting ties with the likes of Pollack, Tom Rinaldi, and Chris “The Bear” Fallica.
“The format of the show when you take someone like that, you’re changing it,” Ruiz said. “You’re changing the emotional stories that made you cry in advance of a Purdue/Ohio State game. All that stuff starts going away. And now it’s not just going away, some of that stuff is going to FOX.”
Dan Le Batard responded saying he wasn’t trying to blame Pat McAfee for Big Noon Kickoff closing the gap on GameDay and negative fan feedback. But all of a sudden now that FOX can tout its pregame show continuing to grow and be a successful alternative to ESPN’s product, the narrative shifts.
“I always say perception is not reality, but when all you have is perception and fudged numbers, FOX is saying, ‘We’ve caught College GameDay. We’ve caught one of the most popular shows in the history of sports television,'” Le Batard said.
Jordan Bondurant is a features reporter for Barrett Sports Media. He’s a multimedia journalist and communicator who works at the Virginia State Corporation Commission in Richmond. Jordan also contributes occasional coverage of the Washington Capitals for the blog NoVa Caps. His prior media experiences include working for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Danville Register & Bee, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, WRIC-TV 8News and Audacy Richmond. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @J__Bondurant.