You may have heard ESPN has breathlessly released The Next Big Thing.
ESPN+ is the most aggressive step to date by ESPN to recapture the consumers that are dropping its channels along with the rest of their pay TV subscriptions.
For $4.99 a month, the new service will give users the kind of all-you-can-watch buffet they have enjoyed on Netflix and other streaming video platforms, but with live sporting events.
Pitaro previewed ESPN+ last week at the ESPN Technology Center, where visitors are greeted by a message on the wall that reads “Where Innovation Takes The Field.” The streaming service, a top priority at the facility over the last eight months, is kicking off what Pitaro called an “era of innovation” at the company.
ESPN+ subscribers will have on-demand access to thousands of live events, including Major League Baseball, NHL hockey, collegiate sports, Major League Soccer, boxing, PGA golf, Grand Slam tennis events and even cricket. It will also offer the entire library of ESPN’s critically acclaimed “30 for 30” sports documentaries and new exclusive original programming that includes a weekly basketball analysis show hosted by retired Los Angeles Laker great Kobe Bryant.
The programs and live events will have commercials…
Such a deal. It’s really a balancing act for Mickey.
Pitaro, who became president of ESPN last month after the sudden resignation of John Skipper, is careful to emphasize that the new service is not a replacement for the cable and satellite subscriptions that still bring in about $8 billion annually.
“We are really doing this as a service that is complementary and additive and not competitive with the pay TV business,” he said. “What you see on linear [TV] will not make its way on the subscription service. And what’s on the subscription service will not be on television.”
Therein lies the balancing act that Pitaro has to perform with ESPN+. He needs to push ESPN further into the digital TV future while preserving the traditional cable and satellite model that continues to make a substantial profit, even though it eroded.
Good luck with that, fella, because it really seems like all the big monetization is coming up front.
The first result of the marriage of a tech startup and legacy content provider is a newly updated ESPN app and the ESPN+ subscription option, which arrived nearly two years after it was originally announced. Disney hopes that consumers will pay $4.99 a month, or $50 for a year, to access a long list of games and other content to which it has the rights but is not showing on the channels for which cable subscribers pay roughly $8 or $9 a month through their cable bills.
Many of those games were already available, however, as part of a digital channel known as ESPN3 that will live on, according to the company. ESPN has long had an app, called WatchESPN, that offered live streams of all of its channels as well as many ESPN3 games it was not airing on its TV stations. ESPN+ bundles many of those streams it offered to subscribers in WatchESPN with other previously free services and some niche sports and original programming for a fee, and offers that service in the same app as streaming versions of ESPN channels available only to cable subscribers.
”Those subscribers are already paying more than $100 a year for ESPN content,” BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield said in a telephone interview. “Now, they’re being asked to pay another $60 a year for the least compelling parts of that content.”
To reiterate, such a deal.
Meanwhile, Jim Delany’s gig running a broadcast network took a hit.
Unfortunately for Big Jim, Comcast doesn’t roll over like the Sun Belt Conference.
Comcast will drop the Big Ten Network from its cable television system in states where there are no teams in the conference.
The Big Ten Network will remain available on Comcast Xfinity in Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Comcast is not available in Nebraska and Iowa.
Note that New York is missing there — the raison d’etre for adding a pathetic Rutgers athletic program to the conference in the first place. Nice how that’s working out. It’s also nice to see that the Big Ten apparently couldn’t care less about making sure folks in Nebraska and Iowa
who are Comcast subscribers can get Comcast to watch their teams. Jim probably thinks if those folks want it badly enough, they can just move to New Jersey.