Though it wasn't the only Disney mainstay that took a hit this year -- the Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD all lost lost 3 million subs, while Freeform shed 2 million -- ESPN's decline is more of a metric of how many people have quit cable, since it's in nearly every package. As Variety notes, Disney isn't the only media behemoth to be burned by cord-cutting: the entirety of cable's leading lights have suffered subscriber losses.
But Disney already has a contingency plan in the form of ESPN+, which offers live and archived sports streams from regional networks, excluding any local blackouts, for a $5 monthly fee. The service nabbed 1 million subs in just five months, helping to offset some of Disney's cable losses. There's also NHL.TV (the online home of out-of-market ice hockey games) and skinny bundles that carry ESPN (like Disney's part-owned Hulu Live TV, and YouTube TV, Sling TV, and DirecTV Now, among others).
If you're a sports fan thinking of cutting the cord, check out our guide to live sports streaming.