ESPN+ to Debut April 12, Include “Hundreds” of MLB, NHL and MLS Games


ESPN has announced their upcoming direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service ESPN+ will debut on April 12th. Integrated into a “completely redesigned and reimagined ESPN App”, the $4.99/mo. OTT offering will include “hundreds” of MLB, NHL and MLS games, “thousands” of college sports events, Top Rank Boxing, PGA Tour Golf and Grand Slam Tennis; original content (scripted shows, films, studio shows) and an “unmatched library” of on-demand sports programming are also included. The service will be powered by BAMTech, a unit of Disney (DIS) Direct to Consumer and International. DIS acquired 75% of the MLB Advanced Media spinoff, for $2.58 billion.

Howie Long-Short: On Sunday, ESPN opened its new NYC home, a 21,000 SF facility called ESPN Seaport District Studios. The network’s new morning show “Get Up!” (hosted by Mike Greenberg, Michelle Beadle and Jalen Rose) debuted from Pier 17 on Monday morning at 7a EST. Among the site’s (at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge) unique features is a 100,000 SF event deck (controlled by the Howard Hughes Corporation, HHC) to be used for concerts and an outdoor skating rink. The Seaport District Studios are just a small piece of the $5.96 billion (market cap) HHC conglomerate though, as the company develops and operates MPC’s (Master Planned Communities) and mixed-use properties across 14 states. FY17 was a successful one for HHC. The company increased land sales at MPCs for a 3rd consecutive year, reported its highest year of NOI (+13% to $157 million) from operating assets, placed 4 new properties into operation (from its development pipeline) and commenced on 5 others that will add $28.2 million in recurring NOI upon stabilization. Shares are up 11% (to $137.44) since we last wrote about the Seaport District Studio project in October.

Fan Marino: I fail to see who this service appeals to. Sports fans have favorite teams and watch their teams’ games, gamblers pay for services (think: NBA League Pass, NFL Season Ticket) that provide them with access to all the action and anyone willing to cut the cord (and drop ESPN), isn’t adding a package meant to be complimentary. That’s not to say there isn’t an end game here for ESPN, it’s just several years out. DIS is buying 22 21st Century Fox (FOXA) RSNs with the intention of adding 5,500 local broadcasts to ESPN+ (as existing the broadcast deals expire). When a fan in St. Louis can get all the Cardinals and Blues games for $4.99/mo., fans in St. Louis will subscribe to ESPN+.

Oh, and touting “thousands” of college sporting events is a bit misleading, as there won’t be any P5 football or basketball included. ESPN won’t be simulcasting its most watched content on the linear network to prevent the cannibalization of its cable subscription base.

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