It appears consumers will be able to pay for ESPN's content without paying for a cable package.
Disney will launch its own ESPN streaming service beginning in 2018, the media company announced on its most recent earnings call.
It appears the proprietary streaming service will allow to consumers to pay for ESPN's content without buying a larger cable or satellite package. Currently, the lone way to access ESPN's content online is through its Watch ESPN platform, which requires a TV provider login.
It's a similar model to that of HBO NOW, which is an online-only subscription that comes with access to all of HBO's content but is not part of a cable package. But Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a conference call that he envisions a more customizable user experience where consumers can select specific games, packages and even parts of games they want to purchase.
“Ultimately we envision this will become a dynamic sports marketplace that will grow and be increasingly customizable, allowing sports fans to pick and choose content that reflects their personal interests," Iger said, per MarketWatch.
"So you’ll watch a highlight, and if you want to buy maybe part of a game that’s going on live, if you want to buy that game, you’ll be able to buy it directly through the app or subscribe to the service directly through the app. It’s basically a one-stop shopping for the consumer and it’s one-stop shopping for us in terms of our ability to manage the consumer that wants to consume sports through ESPN.”
The platform will reportedly include about 10,000 sports events per year including content from the MLB, NHL, MLS, college sports and tennis' majors. There is no word as to whether the service will include NBA or NFL content.
ESPN has a $1.9 billion contract with the NFL that runs through 2021. As part of the deal, ESPN broadcasts Monday Night Football, one playoff game and has access to wide-ranging video content including game highlights.
In 2014, ESPN extended its deal with the NBA, which now runs through the 2024-25 season. ESPN broadcasts NBA games throughout the season and, combined with fellow Disney subsidiary ABC, broadcasts up to 44 playoff games. ABC remains the lone broadcaster of the NBA Finals.
Disney announced that it had acquired a controlling share in BAM Tech for $1.58 billion, and BAMTech's technology will power the service. BAMTech was spun off from MLB Advanced Media in 2015, and Disney bought a 33% share in 2016.
Disney also announced on the call that it will pull its movies from Netflix and launch its own direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019.