Today on Disney’s Q3 earnings call CEO Bob Iger gave a preview of ESPN’s upcoming direct to consumer streaming service. The announcement comes after another disappointing quarter for ESPN, with decreased ad revenue and higher programing costs compared to the prior year.
The service will be called ESPN Plus, and live inside a new app that will be launched by the sports broadcasting network in spring 2018 – much earlier than Disney’s more general subscription streaming service that will launch in 2019.
Details are still extremely sparse – Iger only spent about 30 seconds discussing the new service. Iger did say that the new app will be able to “stream our channels on an authenticated basis and subscribe to ESPN+ for additional sports coverage, including thousands of live sporting events.”
From this limited information it isn’t clear if the paid direct-to-consumer offering will be offered to anyone willing to pay, or only people who are already authenticated to watch ESPN via their existing cable subscription. Of course the expectation for ESPN’s direct-to-consumer offering was that it would be designed for cord cutters, and provide a full-fledged ESPN experience to anyone willing to directly pay ESPN. But the limited information provided on the call makes it seem like customers may still need a cable subscription to use the service. We’ve reached out to ESPN for clarification and will update this if we hear back.
Pricing hasn’t been announced, and while Iger said that the Disney streaming service will be priced less than a Netflix subscription, he didn’t say anything specifically about the pricing strategy for ESPN Plus. The service will also be ad-supported, which should help generate additional revenue for the network.