ESPN lost another 1.5M subs from February to May, Nielsen says

ESPN and ESPN 2 lost just over 1.5 million subscribers from February through May of this year, according to Nielsen data, continuing an erosion trend of the multichannel universe's most powerful channel.

ESPN has lost about 10 million subscribers since 2013. 

Reps for the programmer didn't immediately respond to FierceCable's inquiry for comment. The company has blamed its recent subscriber slide not so much on consumers leaving the pay-TV ecosystem but on the proliferation of skinny bundles and cord shaving. 

ESPN's closest competition among national sports programmers, Fox Sports 1, also saw heavy losses during the same period, losing just under 1 million subscribers according to Nielsen. ESPN is now distributed in 77 percent of U.S. TV homes, the research firm added.

Last month, during the first-quarter earnings report for parent company Disney, the company reported its ESPN network grew revenue by 4 percent in the first quarter, a number analysts said is too low and driven by rate increases, not subscriber growth.

"While the fact that the number is stable at 4 percent for a couple of quarters is positive, we note that this comes in an environment where Fox, Time Warner Inc. and Discovery Networks grew domestic affiliate revenues by 7 percent, 15 percent and 7.7 percent, with the growth rate in all three expected to be high single or low double digits for the rest of the year and even next year," Barclays said in a note to investors this morning. 

For more:
- read this Sports TV Ratings story
- read this DSL Reports story

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