Disney chief outlines plans for new ESPN streaming platform

ESPN’s sport subscription streaming service is now set to launch in 2017 and could include an à la carte model allowing users to buy individual events or sports, according to Bob Iger, chief executive of the US sports broadcaster’s owner, the Walt Disney media company.

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

Walt Disney agreed to pay $1bn (€894.4m) for a 33-per-cent stake in BAMTech and has the option to acquire majority ownership in the coming years. At the time, Iger (pictured) said that the new platform would likely launch by the end of the year.

However, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investors conference in New York, Iger announced the launch would take place in 2017. He said the service would be complementary to the current ESPN networks and could offer live coverage of specific sports and tournaments.

“Let’s look at it as an add-on product, not as a substitute product for ESPN, the mothership,” Iger said.

He continued: “We’re not doing this because we believe the current business model is in any way crumbling. We’re doing it because we think we have more opportunity to reach more sports fans and also because we can’t predict right now where the business goes over time.”

Iger pointed to the success of UK pay-television broadcaster Sky’s online streaming service, Now TV. Stating that executives have determined that the new platform shouldn’t take a “one size fits all” approach, the Disney chief said talks are seeking to determine how fans can buy individual sports or events across varying timeframes.

He added: “ESPN is sitting on a treasure trove of rights that for 99 per cent of sports it isn’t exploiting on new platforms. This is a monetisation goldmine.”