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Disney CEO: ‘We’re Just Not There Yet’ on Standalone ESPN Streamer

David Satin

The wide world of sports isn’t getting dramatically wider, at least for the time being. That’s according to comments made by Disney CEO Bob Iger during the company’s earnings call for its fiscal first quarter on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

In the past, Disney CEOs have spoken about the possibility of the company moving more ESPN content to a streaming format. Former chairman Bob Chapek called a standalone streaming ESPN product “the ultimate fan offering,” and with every quarter that passes the company gets more insight into the success of sports on streaming with ESPN+.

Iger’s comments from Wednesday suggest that the company is still investigating the best ways of bringing a streaming-exclusive ESPN to the market.

“ESPN+ actually has grown nicely for us, and it’s shown us that the ESPN brand can be enjoyed and can be expressed well as a streaming brand,” he said. “And I think that we are going to continue to look at that as a potential pivot for ESPN away from the linear business. But we’re not going to do that precipitously. We’re not going to do that until it really makes sense from an economic perspective.”

The Disney CEO could not, however, offer more details regarding a prospective launch date for a streaming-only ESPN product.

“Regarding ESPN and when we might make the shift, if you’re asking me is the shift inevitable? The answer is yes,” Iger said. “But I’m not going to give you any sense of when that could be because we have to do it obviously at a time that really makes sense for the bottom line. And we’re just not there yet.”

Iger then cited the pricing power of ESPN as one reason that the company could not shift it to a streaming-only format immediately. ESPN has the highest carriage fee of any cable channel on the market, and Disney uses that pricing power aggressively. Some users of live TV streaming services like YouTube TV have even filed lawsuits against Disney for forcing streamers to carry the channel and raising subscription prices as a result.

However those lawsuits turn out, it’s clearer with every quarter that passes that ESPN+ is a success for Disney. The service now has nearly 25 million users(not accounting for overlaps from the Disney Bundle), and it streamed over 27,000 live sporting events in 2022. There’s more to come in 2023, including over 200 hours of professional pickleball.

Ultimately, a standalone streaming ESPN product will have to wait until the channel stops being a profit juggernaut on cable. That time is drawing nearer, as pay-TV penetration in the United States is at its lowest point since 1993, but users should think of streaming-only ESPN as years away, not months.


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 $9.99 / month per month or annually for $99.99 / year.

You will get a daily out-of-market game from MLB, and every out-of-market NHL with NHL Power Play (previously NHL.TV). For NFL Fans, they have an exclusive NFL game, and simulcast select Monday Football games.

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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