In July, Disney CEO Robert Iger said that ESPN could be sold directly to consumers someday as a standalone service, sort of like HBO Go.

Well, the time for making that possible move might have been expedited given the results of Disney's regulatory filing last week. According to the Hollywood Reporter, that filing shows that ESPN has lost seven million subscribers over the past two years due to cable service-cutting customers, who are relying more and more on Hulu and Netflix for their viewing.

In addition, there are plenty of consumers who have reduced their cable TV subscription to a smaller package while still relying on Netflix and Hulu, and that might also be a reason for ESPN's drop in numbers.

ESPN has seen its subscribers drop from 99 million in 2013 to 95 million last year, to currently 92 million ... and the Worldwide Leader in Sports isn't the only Disney-owned network to experience the dip. ABC Family and the Disney Channel, for example, have lost five million and four million subscribers, respectively.

However, for ESPN, this news is troubling, considering that just last month, the Big Lead reported that the sports company was going to begin laying off 350 employees to focus on upper-level high earners. ESPN also ended October by shutting down Grantland, its long-form sports feature website.

The writing for the loss of seven million subscribers was on the wall, considering that, back in July, there were reports about ESPN tightening its belt after losing 3.2 million American households due to cord-cutting and downgrading in cable packages.

Given the news, it remains to be seen if ESPN will introduce a standalone direct-to-consumer service sooner than it might have been planning.

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