The long-awaited ESPN streaming service is almost here, but it’s meant to be an addition, not an alternative, for cable service. ESPN has a message for those thinking about cutting the cord: Keep the cord and layer streaming services on top of it.
The company announced its long-awaited subscription service yesterday, but it’s not for cord-cutters. ESPN Plus will cost $4.99 per month and allow live streaming of ESPN channels only to those who already have cable or satellite service that includes ESPN. The service will integrate with a new ESPN app, and will offer access to live sports events that aren’t broadcast on ESPN channels—10,000 international, national, and regional tennis, boxing, rugby, cricket, and college games per year. ESPN has the rights to more content that it can show though its traditional channels, so this gives it an outlet. The streaming plan will also give viewers access to an on-demand library of ESPN titles.
Speaking on a quarterly earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Iger said, “If anything points to what the future of ESPN looks like, it will be this.” ESPN Plus will debut in the spring and be available on Android, iOS, and Chromecast devices.
An ESPN streaming service has been in discussion since at least August 2016, when Disney invested $1 billion in BAMTech for a one-third stake. In August 2017, Disney increased that to a two-thirds stake and announced it will use BAMTech to launch a Disney-branded OTT service, which should debut next year.