According to a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, Disney is actively preparing to launch a standalone streaming service for ESPN. The plan involves offering ESPN’s channel directly to cable cord-cutters as a subscription-based streaming service in the near future, although the exact launch date remains unknown.
This development aligns with previous statements from Disney and ESPN, where they expressed their intention to eventually offer the channel as a standalone streaming service. Internally known as “Flagship,” this project is now being set into motion. ESPN has begun negotiating flexible agreements with cable providers and is also engaged in similar discussions with professional sports leagues.
Despite introducing its own streaming service, Disney will reportedly continue offering ESPN as a TV channel. However, this shift will have significant implications for cable TV providers since live sports on ESPN are among the primary attractions of traditional cable subscriptions. Cable providers, who pay to carry the ESPN channel, will now have to contend with competition from the new streaming service
While ESPN already has a monthly streaming service called ESPN+, it does not provide access to the ESPN channel itself. ESPN+ offers live programming for select MLB and professional hockey games but notably lacks NBA and NFL telecasts, which are currently exclusive to TV. With the forthcoming streaming service, ESPN aims to fully transition to a streaming platform.
During Disney’s recent earnings call, CEO Robert Iger mentioned that the decision to migrate ESPN to a direct-to-consumer service is a significant one, and the company intends to approach it with caution.
During the call, Iger stated, “Our position regarding migrating ESPN’s flagship service to a direct-to-consumer or streaming platform remains unchanged. We believe it’s inevitable, but it’s a major decision that requires careful consideration. We are aware of the importance of getting the pricing and timing right.”