Axios Pro Exclusive Content

Linear TV still turns a big profit for Disney

Tim Baysinger
Aug 16, 2022
Data: Earnings reports; Chart: Axios Visuals

One reason investors may not want Disney to jettison ESPN? Disney's linear networks still generate billions in profits, with ESPN leading that charge.

Why it matters: This is the plight of the media exec: Bet on the future of an unproven streaming model or hold on to declining, but still profitable, legacy business units.

By the numbers: ESPN still brings in over $700 million in affiliate fees each month —more than $8 billion a year — while cord-cutting continues to accelerate.

  • The flagship ESPN network is the most expensive cable channel on TV, earning more than $8 a month per subscriber. Disney's next on that list? Disney Channel at $1.12 per sub.
  • At the same time, while Disney's streaming services continue to grow at a strong pace, that business has hung a $2.5 billion loss on the balance sheet so far in Disney's fiscal 2022.

What they're saying: "As we noted earlier in the year, given the importance of ESPN's cash flow to Disney, 'it would seem financially dangerous to divest ESPN and its other networks at this point in time.' We stand by that conclusion today," MoffettNathanson analysts wrote in a research note Monday.

Go deeper