Recently we learned that Disney was in the process of building a streaming service to offer ESPN as a stand alone streaming service. This would allow sports fans to subscribe to ESPN without cable TV or a live TV streaming service.
Millions of sports fans have dreamed of a service that would give them just the sports channels and now it looks like we are one step closer to that becoming a reality.
Now the question is when will this service launch. So let us take a look at what we know.
What has Disney officially said about the launch of an ESPN streaming service?
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.”
So when will ESPN’s stand alone streaming service launch?
Disney has been very clear that they plan to launch a service, just not yet. It seems Disney is closely watching the decline of cable TV. When the numbers look right, they will release ESPN as a stand alone streaming service in order to help offset the declining subscription numbers from traditional pay TV services.
It is very unlikely that ESPNs new streaming service will be released this year. It is possible that it will happen next year in 2024, but 2025 or later may be more realistic.
The truth is Disney likely has no exact date in mind for when the service will launch. Instead they have some number that once the revenue from cable TV drops below that mark they will release the service.
If cord cutting continues to speed up, it is very possible we may see the service launch as soon as next year. If cord cutting slows down, it could still be a few years before it launches.
For Disney, this is all about money, and for as long as cable TV is the most profitable way to release ESPN, they will continue with that. As soon as it becomes more profitable to stream ESPN they will release it as a stand alone service.
For now, if you are looking for a date for this service, expect it in 2024 or 2025 at the earliest. Though that number assumes that cord cutting’s growth remains at a steady pace.