ESPN sets price for new OTT service
The new over-the-top streaming service to be launched by US sports broadcaster ESPN this spring will cost $4.99 per month, Bob Iger, the chief executive of parent company Walt Disney, has said.
The highly-anticipated ‘ESPN Plus’ service will offer coverage of around 10,000 sports events “not available” on ESPN’s linear television channels.
There is expected to be content from North America’s Major League Baseball, National Hockey League and Major League Soccer, plus boxing, golf, rugby and cricket on the platform.
The service will be an add-on product available to customers as part of the redesigned ESPN mobile app, and will not be a standalone platform, according to Iger.
Hampered by falling cable subscriptions for ESPN, the OTT move is aimed at helping Disney tackle ‘cord-cutters’ – those that have cancelled their linear television subscriptions in favour of receiving programmes via digital delivery methods.
However, ESPN Plus will not offer the broadcaster’s flagship SportsCenter show or live ESPN channels, with sports fans still needing a "traditional or non-traditional subscription" to access that programming.
Iger claimed the new service will offer a "greatly expanded array of programmes” and live sports that are not presently available on television. Original content, such as ESPN’s ’30 for 30’ documentary series, will also be available on ESPN Plus.
The app will be available on Apple iOS, Android and ChromeCast.
The final details of ESPN’s streaming offering have emerged as Disney reported its financial results for the final quarter of 2017.
In the period from October to December inclusive Disney reported net income of $4.42 billion, while revenue rose by 3.8 per cent to $15.4 billion.
However, turnover at ESPN declined by 1 per cent to $4.5 billion.
Iger told CNBC that ESPN’s subscriber numbers had not fallen by as much in the period as in previous quarters.
The launch of the ESPN OTT service follows the broadcaster's acquisition of a majority stake in BAMTech, the live-streaming technology company, in 2016.
Having bought a 33-per-cent shareholding in BAMTech in 2016 for $1 billion, Disney agreed to pay $1.58 billion to secure an additional 42-per-cent stake in the company born out of Major League Baseball Advanced Media.
Late last year, Disney agreed a mammoth $66.1-billion deal to acquire key parts of 21st Century Fox, the international television and film company headed up by chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Subject to regulatory approval, the assets to be bought by Disney include Fox’s movie and television studios, Star India, the burgeoning Indian pay-television broadcaster, and stakes in Sky, the UK-based European subscription broadcaster, and the Hulu streaming service.