Disney’s bombshell announcement today that it would be building its own branded direct-to-consumer streaming service, and ending its licensing deal with Netflix, came with another nugget of news: the previously announced all-new ESPN streaming service is launching next year. We first heard about this service last year, when Disney acquired a minority stake in BAMTech, the MLB-founded video juggernaut behind many of the most popular sports and TV streaming services.
Now, with Disney announcing a majority stake in BAMTech thanks to a new $1.54 billion investment, the company is preparing to launch a dedicated over-the-top ESPN service. It will be the first time the sports broadcaster has offered an independent, multi-sport service that doesn’t come with its own licensing complications and isn’t tied to an existing third-party service like Sling.
It’s unclear how Disney and ESPN plan to price it, but the service may notably exclude core ESPN programming like SportsCenter, which sounds as if it will remain exclusive to cable subscribers. In a statement, Disney describes the new product in broad terms, confirming that it will include a host of games from every major sports organization in the US and purchasable add-ons for those who closely follow individual sports like baseball, hockey, and soccer:
The ESPN-branded multi-sport service will offer a robust array of sports programming, featuring approximately 10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year, including Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, Grand Slam tennis, and college sports. Individual sport packages will also be available for purchase, including MLB.TV, NHL.TV and MLS Live.
Disney says the service won’t be spun out into a new app, but rather it will live inside the existing ESPN app, which is accessible on a number of devices like smartphones, game consoles, and streaming TV boxes. The company says those who pay for cable will be able to access additional content, like direct feeds of ESPN’s live cable broadcasts, by authenticating through a provider. “For many sports fans, this app will become the premier digital destination for all their sports content,” the statement reads.