A detail view of a broadcast camera is seen with the NFL crest and ESPN Monday Night Football logo on it during a game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field in Chicago on Dec. 20, 2021.
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ESPN will launch its flagship direct-to-consumer service in either August or the fall of 2025, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced during an interview Wednesday with CNBC’s Julia Boorstin.
The service will include all of ESPN’s programming and feature new personalization and integration with ESPN’s fantasy platforms and ESPN Bet.
The date of this launch has been long anticipated by the sports media world, although the news is somewhat muted by Disney’s announcement that ESPN will be available in a new sports bundle this fall. The direct-to-consumer service would have been the first time noncable subscribers could access ESPN outside of the traditional cable bundle.
Now, the yet-to-be-named joint venture from Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery will take over that role.
It is unclear now whether TV viewers who abandoned cable will agree to pay a premium for either sports offering, neither of which include Comcast NBCUniversal and Paramount Global’s live sports games.
ESPN didn’t announce a price for the flagship direct-to-consumer service. Disney already has a sports streaming service in ESPN+, which ended the quarter with 25.2 million subscribers, down from 26 million a quarter ago. ESPN+ only has some of ESPN’s content and doesn’t include the network’s most popular live sports, including the full suite of Monday Night Football.
In the CNBC interview, Iger downplayed the prospect of the joint streaming service cannibalizing the ESPN product. He said the two platforms would offer different features to sports fans.
The ESPN offering “will have many more features and provide a much more immersive experience for the sports fan than this bundle has,” he said. “This bundle is really a channel bundle.”
Disney has looked to revive the ESPN business, which has suffered as traditional cable bleeds subscribers. The company has considered finding a strategic partner for the network, and has held preliminary talks with the NFL, NBA and MLB about potential agreements, CNBC previously reported.
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