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Photo: David Kohl / AP file

ESPN is laying off another 100 staffers, per Sports Illustrated. The news broke shortly before ESPN's parent company, Walt Disney Co. announced that its' cable networks revenue, driven mostly by ESPN, was down year over year. Advertising was down by the lower single digits. A reported decrease in ad impressions was offset by higher ad rates.

Why it matters: Once hailed the king of cable, ESPN is now a reflection of what many in the cable industry are facing today: a steady loss in subscribers, higher production costs and stagnant ad revenues. Earlier this year, Disney purchased a majority stake in BAMTech, the cutting-edge digital TV provider for MLB Network, WWE and others, to transition programming onto an on-demand, digital platform. But that integration isn't slated to finish for some time, and in the interim, ESPN needs to adjust its cost structure, including talent, while it adapts to the changing landscape.

Countering losses, the company revealed more details about its planned digital sports streaming service which is set to debut in part next year.

  • The service, called "ESPN Plus" will launch next spring and will be available through a new redesigned version of the ESPN app. It will stream channels on an authenticated basis and consumers can subscribe to the app for additional sports content.
  • The service will be ad-supported, unlike its sister entertainment product that Disney plans to launch for movies and shows in 2019 to rival Netflix
  • The investment in Bamtech will be costly upfront, Disney CEO Bob Iger told investors on Thursday's earnings call. "Consolidation of Bamtech will adversely impact cable operating income by about $130 million compared to last year," Iger said. "Roughly half the Bamtech-related impact will happen in Q1 of next year."

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official tells Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Podcasts

Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Coalition.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"