It needs to be clear that there is a difference between subscribers and viewers. Nearly 90 million people subscribe to ESPN, which is the number of people who have cable or satellite packages that contain ESPN. Only a fraction of those people watch ESPN. And the number of people who watch ESPN appears to be as strong as ever as ESPN's subscriber fees, the amount cable and satellite providers pay to ESPN per subscriber, continues to rise. ESPN now charges $7.21 per subscriber, by far the most expensive cable network. That is up 54% from what they were charging in 2011.
The good news for ESPN, and other sport networks, is that the loss in subscribers appears to be slowing down. ESPN's subscriber base is down about 0.5 million in the last six months after losing approximately 1.0 million subscribers every six months in the previous five years.