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Disney chief raises prospect of a la carte offering for ESPN

A direct-to-consumer offering is being considered for ESPN, according to Bob Iger, chief executive of the US sports broadcaster’s parent company, Walt Disney.

ESPN is currently assessing the impact of issues such as cord-cutting to its business model and lost an undisclosed number of subscribers in the financial quarter that ended January 2. During that quarter, Disney reported a six-per-cent decline in operating income for its Media Networks division, which includes ESPN.

In November, Walt Disney revealed that ESPN suffered a 3.2-per-cent fall in subscribers during the 12 months through to the end of September. Regulatory filings showed that ESPN had a total of 92 million subscribers on October 3, 2015, down from 95 million on September 27 the previous year.

The broadcaster receives money from the US cable and satellite companies that carry its channels, and is the most expensive of all basic pay-television channels in the US. Iger (pictured), speaking at Deutsche Bank's annual Media, Internet and Telecom Conference in Palm Beach, Florida, said that “some form of direct-to-consumer” offering of ESPN is on the table. “I don’t think it’s one size fits all,” he added, concerning consumers' changing television-consumption habits.

Stressing that he believes in the “brand value of ESPN”, Iger added that it must improve its digital products. “First of all, we think that we’ve got to crack mobile even more successfully than we have before,” he added, according to the Los Angeles Times newspaper.