ESPN+ monthly subscription rate ‘to rise to’ $5.99

The cost of a subscription to ESPN’s direct-to-consumer streaming platform ESPN+ is rising by $1 per month to $5.99 beginning in August, according to The Verge, citing internal documents.

It would be the first price increase for the OTT streaming service since it debuted in April 2018.

According to the report, the annual price of $49.99 will not be changed, while existing subscribers will be able to keep paying the current $4.99 per month rate for a year. Notably, Walt Disney Co’s new monthly bundle which includes ESPN+, Hulu, and Disney+ and has been a key driver of subscriber acquisition for all three platforms will remain at $12.99.

The reasons for the price increase and the timing of the move remains unclear, and Disney did not comment on the impending switch.

In May, Disney announced the number of ESPN+ subscribers had risen to 7.9 million during its second fiscal quarter, a minimal gain from the 7.6 million reported following the company’s prior quarter.

ESPN+ had previously been on a much more aggressive growth curve, steadily growing from 2.2m subscribers a year ago to 3.5m in November 2019, and then quickly more than doubling that figure by February following the introduction of the popular Disney+ bundle.

However, as live sports dried up in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic, consumer adoption has slowed. Disney+ itself had a reported 54.5m subscribers in May.

ESPN+ continues to regularly add new content. In June, the PGA Tour and ESPN reached an agreement for the OTT platform to stream live, featured-hole coverage from 12 Tour events this season.

The agreement comes ahead of a nine-year domestic rights agreement, in which PGA Tour Live, the Tour’s subscription OTT service, will be exclusively available on ESPN+ from 2022 onwards.

Elsewhere, Google’s streaming platform YouTube TV announced a monthly price hike of 30 per cent, moving from $49.99 to $64.99.

YouTube TV, which was $35 per month when it originally debuted in 2017, said in a blog post that “we don’t take these decisions lightly,” and cited increased programming costs.

“We realize how hard this is for our members. That said, this new price reflects the rising cost of content and we also believe it reflects the complete value of YouTube TV,” the company said, additionally touting the arrival of ViacomCBS brands BET, CMT, Comedy Central, and Paramount Network to the service.

The sharp price escalation, however, makes YouTube TV increasingly resemble the traditional cable bundle it was originally designed to disrupt.