Last week we learned that Disney was building a streaming service and planned to offer ESPN as a stand alone streaming option. So exactly what does that mean, and what do we know about Disney’s so called “‘Flagship’ project to leave cable TV behind and offer a la carte TV? Let’s take a look at what we know.
What exactly is Disne’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. Exactly how that will work is still unknown.
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. Pricing the service at $15 a month could mean Disney will get a larger profit for each subscriber.
Moving to streaming will likely mean ESPN will need to charge more as many people who pay for ESPN don’t watch it. $15 to $30 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 Forbes, 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 simular to what The Weather Channel and some RSNs are doing right now.
Will this move kill cable TV?
It is very easy to see how this move will start a domino effect in sports. FOX, Paramount, and NBC could all easily follow in ESPNs footsteps and make their content available through their streaming services like Paramount+, Peacock, and the Fox Sports app. Raising a very real question of why anyone would pay for 100+ channels of content they don’t want when they can get the sports programs they do directly from the providers.
For now, this is all we know. Don’t expect ESPN to go streaming only tomorrow but it has become clear that Disney plans to cut the cord on cable TV and go streaming. The only questions now are what does this mean for other Disney channels.