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ESPN to Focus Heavily on Adding Live Sports Rights to ESPN+

Jeff Kotuby

Were you impressed by the amount of live sports content that ESPN added for its streaming service ESPN+ last year? If words from the Worldwide Leader’s head honcho are any indication, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

At the Barrett Sports Media summit recently, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said the company plans to add even more exclusive and non-exclusive content to ESPN+.

“That exclusivity really helps drive audience,” Pitaro said, regarding his company’s push towards exclusive content for ESPN+. Just last year alone, the company added rights to the NHL, KHL, PHL (formerly the NWHL), LaLiga, Bundesliga, the Emirates FA Cup, and IPL Cricket, while extending and improving the platforms’ NFL, NCAA, PGA Tour, UFC, and tennis coverage.

By the end of 2021, ESPN+ reached 17.1 million subscribers, an increase of 66%. By the end of Q1 2022, that number is expected to grow to 21.3 million, a further increase of 4.2 million. Suffice to say, ESPN+ is growing exponentially, thanks in part to cord-cutting (ESPN's linear channels lost 10% of its cable subscribers last November), the Disney Bundle, and the streamer’s exclusive content. Having live sports at your fingertips at seemingly all hours of the day sure looks like an interesting proposal for sports fans.

But what’s left for ESPN+? The biggest fish left in the sea has to be NFL Sunday Ticket, which would give ESPN+ a truly massive get, exclusive or not. The NFL has been trying to figure out what to do with their hugely popular out-of-market broadcast package, with multiple broadcast partners rumored to be potential bidders.

In addition to Disney, there have been reports that Amazon is making a play for the rights for Prime Video, the soon-to-be merged Warner Bros. Discovery is making a play for the content, and as of late, it appears that in addition to recently secured Major League Baseball rights, Apple might be the proverbial leader in the clubhouse for the rights.

In addition, incumbent rights holder DIRECTV is hoping to maintain the commercial rights in order to broadcast in bars and restaurants.

Disney CEO Bob Chapek already admitted to submitting a bid earlier this month, but it’s up to the NFL to choose a winner.

Regardless of what happens, it sounds like 2022 will be an exciting time to be an ESPN+ subscriber, if not just for international cricket games leading into Bundesliga soccer to start your Saturdays off right.

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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