Locked in a media war with a bearish analyst, ESPN is promoting revised data from Nielsen indicating that cord-cutting wasn't nearly as bad last year as earlier reported.
Bowing to what the New York Post called "client pressure," Nielsen removed broadband-only homes from its sample, and is now reporting that 1.2 million homes cut the cord in 2015. Earlier, the research company had reported 4.33 million homes lost for the pay-TV ecosystem.
"Nielsen's correction reinforces what we've said all along, that the vast majority of consumers prefer the multichannel bundle," ESPN parent company Disney said in a statement.
ESPN has been under the crosshairs of late for BTIG Research analyst Richard Greenfield, who has posted almost weekly takedowns of the network's business model. Greenfield argues that ESPN, which is the highest earning cable network bringing in nearly $7 per subscriber, is facing a rapidly declining customer base and audience reach, and is in a bit of trouble, as a result.
Starting with an extensive Q&A in the Wall Street Journal by ESPN President John Skipper two weeks ago, ESPN is starting to fight back in the media war with Greenfield.
Last summer, Nielsen released data suggesting that ESPN had lost 7 million subscribers in a little under two years. This assertion was somewhat confirmed in an earnings announcement conducted in August by Disney CEO Bob Iger, and Disney's share price has suffered ever since, dropping nearly 22 percent over the last six months.
Remarking on the change to the Nielsen cord-cutting data, Greenfield told the Post, "If this is an important issue for ESPN, they should start releasing actual subscriber numbers rather than relying on third parties [Nielsen]. If they are upset with the confusion, let's see the actual number of paying subscribers in the US over five years."
- read this New York Post story
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