Earlier this year, we learned that Disney was building a streaming service and planned to offer ESPN as a stand alone streaming option.
Now ESPN’s President Jimmy Pitaro, talked with CNBC at the CNBC and Boardroom’s “Game Plan” event today. During that talk, we got more insight into his thoughts about ESPNs future with cable TV and talked about ESPN’s new stream service.
What exactly are Disney’s plans for ESPN as a streaming service?
Now thanks to a Disney project code-named ‘Flagship,’ Disney staff are actively working on turning ESPN into a streaming service. This means at some point, you will be able to subscribe to just ESPN directly and watch the channel live without cable TV or a live TV streaming service.
When will ESPN’s streaming service launch?
Earlir this month Bob Iger said he is now more certain than ever about when the service will launch. Though he declined to say when Disney will release the service but that during his time back at Disney he has decided on when Disney will launch a stand alone streaming service for ESPN..
He also added that the bundle of cable TV channels is in trouble now more so than ever. This move to offer ESPN as a stand-alone is likely Disney being prepared for a post-cable TV world.
According to reports from the New York Post ESPN’s streaming service may not happen until 2025 or even 2026. A lot can change that may make Disney rush out the ESPN streaming service earlier, but for now, sources say 2025 is the likely target day.
Jimmy Pitaro also said that its a question of when not if ESPN will start selling directly to consumers without the need for a cable TV subscription.
What has Disney officially said about this project?
Recently when asked about the future of ESPN as a direct streaming service during Disney’s 1st quarter 2023 earnings call, CEO Bob Iger said, “Regarding ESPN and when we might make the shift, if you’re asking me, is the shift inevitable? The answer is yes, but I’m not going to give you any sense of when that could be, because we have to do it, obviously, at a time that really makes sense for the bottom line. And we’re just not there yet,” Bob Iger said. “And that’s not just about how many subscribers we could get, it’s also about what is the pricing power of ESPN, which obviously ties to the menu of sports that that they’ve licensed.”
Not that long ago, ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro once again made it clear that ESPN will be a streaming service but just not yet.
“We’re going to get to a point where we take our entire network, our flagship programming, and make it available direct to consumer,” Pitaro said in an interview with Bloomberg. “That’s a ‘when,’ not an ‘if’….We’re only going to do it when it makes sense for our business and for our bottom line.”
What price should you expect for ESPN as a standalone service?
ESPN reportedly gets, on average $9.42 from each cable TV subscriber. Now it is being reported that Disney may need to charge subscribers to its standalone service $22 a month according to reports for experts.
Moving to streaming will likely mean ESPN will need to charge more as many people who pay for ESPN don’t watch it. $22 could be a price you may expect depending on if ESPN+ is included etc.
Will ESPN still be available through YouTube TV, Cable TV, etc?
According to Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN plans to keep its channels on cable TV and streaming services. When this happens, ESPN will also reportedly be offered as a streaming service alongside its cable channel, similar to what The Weather Channel and some RSNs are doing right now.
Jimmy Pitaro said that “The [traditional TV] model ahs been very good to Disney” during his interview today. This is good news for many who don’t want ESPN to leave their bundle deal with cable or streaming services.
Is Disney planning to sell part of ESPN?
During the interview with CNBC, Disney CEO Bob Iger said he was open to partnering with other companies to make this ESPN streaming service work. He was even open to possibly selling part of ESPN to a 3rd party. Talks have reportedly already happened with a few potential partners, but as of now, nothing concrete has come from these talks.
During Jimmy Pitaro’s interview with CNBC, he said that while he can’t say who ESPN is in talks with, he did say they are looking at partners who can help with content deals.
“I will emphasize the fact we believe there are parties out there that can help us on the content side,” Pitaro said.
Recently CNBC reported that Disney is in talks with the NFL, NBA, and MLB to have them take joint ownership of ESPN along with Disney.
According to CNBC, the talks with the NFL could include Disney taking a stake in the NFL Network, NFL.com, and RedZone. This could help both sides benefit by giving the NFL access to ESPN productions and Disney access to NFL money.
Disney currently owns 80% of ESPN, and Hearst owns 20%. Disney could easily sell part of ESPN to the NFL, NBA, and MLB and still own a controlling majority of ESPN.
For now, we will have to wait and see what happens, but the ESPN future now seems to be streaming online as a stand-alone service even if it won’t fully leave cable TV behind.
Cord Cutters News has reached out to ESPN for comment on what Jimmy Pitaro said today and will update this story as we learn more.