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Disney+ Now Offering ESPN Documentaries, More to Come?

Ben Bowman

If you’re loving these NFL playoffs, Disney+ just added a few titles that should appeal to you. Three ESPN “30 for 30” documentaries just arrived on the service:

This is a notable move, since most of those titles would be at home on Disney’s sister service, ESPN+. The “30 for 30” documentaries are all well done, combining archival footage with present-day interviews.

It’s also not the first time Disney has raided its own cookie jar. Normally adult-skewing films like “Get Back,” “Hamilton,” or “Free Guy” would have typically gone to Hulu. But Disney is broadening its scope to try to get a larger audience to come to Disney+.

Part of Disney’s problem is that the typical Disney+ successes are very expensive and very time-consuming to produce. Pixar films like “Luca” and “Soul” take many years to come together. The Marvel and Star Wars series require lots of special effects.

Compare this to something like Netflix, which can get a hit out of cheap, fast entertainment like a reality show (“Too Hot to Handle”) or a documentary series (“Tiger King”). It’s unlikely that those kinds of shows would appeal to the average Disney+ viewer, but the competitive streaming landscape requires a firehose of content to keep subscribers happy.

Former Disney CEO Bob Iger said in a recent interview, “I think Disney+ needs more volume. And there probably needs to be more dimensionality, meaning, basically, more programming or more content for more people, different demographics. But, [CEO Bob Chapek] is aware of that and is addressing those issues.”

The benefit of adding these sports documentaries is that Disney+ now has something that appeals to a less-served demographic. But are they diluting the brand? And if more of these documentaries appear on Disney+, are they only hurting the allure of ESPN+?

In time, we may see all three of Disney’s services blend into a mega-streamer. But for now, subscribers can choose one service or all three. And with this move, subscribers might simply wait for more content to migrate to them.

Now Available on Disney+

  • The Book of Manning

    24 September 2013

    Explores the personal and professional life of former NFL and Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning and how the sudden loss of his father impacted his life and the way he and his wife Olivia raised their three sons.

  • Four Falls of Buffalo

    12 December 2015

    In 1989, the Buffalo Bills were a talented team full of big personalities, including future Hall-of-Famers Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed. Dysfunction and infighting ran as deep as the talent in their locker room, but the team known as “The Bickering Bills” would soon transform themselves into an elite force. From 1990 through 1993, the Bills went on an unprecedented run of AFC Championship victories, appearing in a record four straight Super Bowls. But what’s been remembered most is how those Super Bowl appearances played out, with the Bills losing all four. Along the way though, the Bills took part in some of the defining NFL moments of the era. Theirs is a heartbreaking tale, yet one that ultimately proves Jim Kelly and the Bills to be among the most perseverant group of players in NFL lore.

  • Deion's Double Play

    31 January 2019

    ESPN presents an overview of Deion “Prime Time” Sanders’ attempt to play in both an NFL and MLB game in the same day.

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