ESPN has set a timetable for the launch of a stand-alone streaming platform.
The Disney-owned sports giant is targeting fall 2025 for the debut of a much-discussed (albeit mostly in theoretical terms prior to now) streaming service that will feature most of the programming currently seen on ESPN’s flagship cable channel. Disney CEO Bob Iger discussed the streaming service in a CNBC interview Wednesday ahead of the company’s quarterly earnings call.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
“Our plan now is to bring so-called flagship to the market, probably in the fall, maybe as early as late August of 2025,” Iger said. Later on the call, Iger said the new service would be a “one-stop shop” for sports fans.
The Wednesday announcement comes a day after Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox jointly announced a different sports streaming effort that will feature livestreams of sporting events on ESPN, ABC, Fox, TNT and TBS. The new service, slated to launch later this year, would feature some NFL games, virtually all national telecasts for Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL and a host of college sports.
Crucially, though, the joint venture doesn’t preclude any of the three companies from starting their own sports streaming platforms. ESPN, led by Jimmy Pitaro, and Disney executives have touted the potential of a full-service ESPN streaming platform for some time as a key part of the Worldwide Leader’s future. A source characterized the joint venture as a complement to ESPN’s planned stand-alone service.
Iger said on CNBC that the stand-alone ESPN platform will have “many more features” than the joint service: “[It will] provide a much more immersive experience for the sports fan than this bundle has. This bundle is really a channel bundle that I think will be very user-friendly because it’s more app based, but the ESPN flagship … will have features like integrated betting fantasy, much more personalization and customization, probably some shopping in some form.”
Iger also noted that with the decline in linear TV — ESPN derives a big chunk of its revenue from carriage fees from cable and satellite operators — a move to streaming had to be in the cards.
“We’ve been preparing for a world where that business is not as strong as it used to be,” Iger said. “I’d rather be a disrupter than to be disrupted. The linear business is still a business that serves us well and that’s profitable for us, and we intend to continue to be in it. We’re investing in it in terms of the channels that we own, running them more efficiently, but we also have to be mindful of where the consumer is is now and where the consumers go.”
ESPN’s current streaming platform, ESPN+, simulcasts some live events and has rights to other, more niche sports, along with the library of the 30 for 30 documentary series and other programming. The flagship streaming service, however, will have the “full suite” of ESPN channels, as Iger put it on the call, along with integrated features for betting, fantasy sports and stats.
Iger also noted that while the ESPN service will stand apart from cable bundles, it will eventually be packaged with Disney’s other streamers, Hulu and Disney+.
Best of The Hollywood Reporter