With the launch of ESPN+, Disney’s long awaited entrance into the US streaming market has begun. The $5/mo service is the first of two streaming platforms Disney plans to launch in the next two years — the other is a Disney-branded SVOD service expected to launch in 2019.
Despite having the rights to some 10,000 live sports events, there is some bad news for die-hard NBA and NFL fans. The service, which launched today on ESPN’s newly redesigned app, will not offer premiere games from the NFL and NBA. Instead, ESPN+ will focus on niche sports in the U.S. like rugby, and college sports fans underserved by existing linear offerings (like water polo enthusiasts and fans of schools in smaller athletic conferences).
Top sporting events that the service will offer include daily MLB and NHL games, MLS out-of-market matches, live events from 20 college conferences, 20 PGA tour events, matches from three of the four Grand Slam Tennis tournaments, hundreds of Top Rank boxing matches, international cricket matches, almost 200 Canadian Football League games and approximately 200 English Football League matches.
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Why it matters:
The success or failure of the service will play a large role in the future of the sports network. ESPN has been experiencing a steady decline in viewership on its traditional broadcast network due to an increase in cord-cutters and cord-nevers. This new OTT service is part of the company’s growing effort to remain relevant to younger generations. Over the past several months, the network has launched shows on platforms such as Facebook Watch and Snapchat, but this is its first OTT offering that is designed to truly complement the existing linear broadcasts, according to ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro, who says that the service “will be complementary and additive to [the company’s] existing business model.”