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Disney CEO: Full ESPN Streaming Service Is Coming, Will be ‘Ultimate Fan Offering’

Tom Wilton

On Wednesday, Disney CEO Bob Chapek suggested that the company is inching closer to launching a fully-featured ESPN streaming service, hinting that such a product would be “the ultimate fan offering.”

Chapek made the comments during an earnings call following Disney’s fiscal second-quarter earnings results, where analysts pressed him about the future of ESPN+. While the platform offers some simulcasts along with original programming, the service is a relative lightweight when compared to its cable brethren.

As analysts pushed Chapek on whether Disney would go all-in on an ESPN package for committed cord-cutters, the CEO acknowledged that this is the company’s ultimate goal. He noted “when it comes time to actually pull the trigger,” the service would “appeal to superfans that really love sports, and I think there’s nobody but ESPN who could frankly pull that off.”

However, despite the enthusiasm, Chapek would not say when such a service could arrive. Instead, he posited that ESPN+ currently serves the company well as “the third leg of our domestic offerings,” alongside Disney+ and Hulu. Chapek continued, “the bundle … can become very powerful for us going forward into the future.”

In their quarterly earnings report, Disney revealed that ESPN+ currently boasts 22.3 million subscribers, while Disney+ has 137.7M globally and Hulu has 45.6M.

So why the reticence to go all out with a full ESPN streaming service? As Chapek explained, sports are “huge cash generators” when it comes to traditional TV services, driving significant fees from cable operators. As CEO, he is likely mindful of cannibalizing that market too soon or too quickly.

Chapek is not the first CEO to face questions about ESPN’s destiny in the streaming space. His predecessor Bob Iger said in 2015 that a transition was on the cards, but that it would take at least five years to happen. So while Chapek’s comments suggest that we’re getting nearer to a full ESPN package, it’s clear that Disney has been thinking about this for some time, but the worldwide leader in sports doesn’t seem to be in much of a rush.

Of course, the discussion about such a big shift risks overshadowing the success of ESPN+ to date. As Disney noted in its earnings report, the service added 1 million subscribers resulting in a 62% year-over-year improvement. As Chapek seems to be signaling, it’s really not a case of “if,” but “when” ESPN goes feet first into the streaming space.

ESPN+

ESPN+ is a live TV streaming service that gives access to thousands of live sporting events, original shows like Peyton’s Place, the entire library of 30 for 30, E:60, The Last Dance, as well exclusive written analysis from top ESPN insiders.

The service can be subscribed for $6.99 / month per month or annually for $69.99 / year.

You will get a daily out-of-market game from MLB, and every out-of-market NHL and MLS game with NHL.TV and MLS LIVE.

The service has some of the most attractive soccer coverage including Bundesliga, LaLiga, FA Cup, UEFA Nations League, EFL Championship, EFL Carabao Cup, Eredevise and more.

College sports fans will be able to watch thousands of games and events including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf, and more.

For boxing and UFC fans, the service offers Top Rank boxing and will be the home of 15 exclusive UFC events.

ESPN+ now includes exclusive insights from analysts like Mel Kiper and Todd McShay (which used to be part of ESPN Insider), as well as premium Fantasy Tools & PickCenter.

What it does not include is most live sports that air on ESPN and ESPN2.

To get access to those channels you have to subscribe to a live TV streaming service. We suggest reading our guide on How to Watch ESPN without Cable.

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