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Disney chief cites iTunes as inspiration for new ESPN service

Walt Disney Company chief executive Bob Iger has said ESPN’s new OTT service is set to utilise a business model similar to that of Apple’s music service, iTunes, as further plans were revealed concerning the platform.

A year ago, it was revealed that ESPN would launch a new direct-to-consumer service after Walt Disney confirmed an initial investment in BAMTech, the video technology business of MLB Advanced Media, the interactive media arm of Major League Baseball.

Walt Disney Company last month agreed to acquire a majority shareholding in BAMTech, using the announcement to confirm that its ESPN-branded video-streaming service will launch in early 2018, with a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer entertainment streaming service starting in 2019.

Only basic details were disclosed about the new service last month, but Iger revealed more information at a Bank of America Merrill Lynch conference in New York last week.

Iger said the ESPN offering will launch in the spring of 2018. The Deadline website said Iger stated that over time it will be “a sports marketplace platform” similar to iTunes. Iger said users will be able to “buy almost on an a la carte basis a sporting event, a season, a league, maybe a conference…It won’t necessarily be a one-size-fits all,” although he added it may launch as a single offering.

“The goal eventually is to create something that the sports fan can use to design what their sports media experience will be,” Iger stated.

The ESPN-branded OTT service will offer coverage of about 10,000 live events per year, including contests from Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, grand slam tennis and college sports. The new service will be available through the ESPN app.