ESPN’s new streaming platform set for 2017 launch

Christine McCarthy, chief financial officer of the Walt Disney media company, has said US sports broadcaster ESPN’s new sport subscription streaming service will launch this year.

Disney owns ESPN and McCarthy addressed plans for the direct-to-consumer offering at the Citi Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas.

McCarthy confirmed that Disney expects the service to launch this year, but maintained it would not affect investment in the linear ESPN offering. “It will have sports and events that aren’t (featured on the linear service) and that is consistent with ESPN’s strategy of superserving sports fans of all types,” she said.

Speaking in September, Disney chief executive Bob Iger revealed a delayed launch for the new platform, adding that it could include an à la carte model allowing users to buy individual events or sports.

In August, 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 (€955.1m) for a 33-per-cent stake in BAMTech and has the option to acquire majority ownership in the coming years. At the time, Iger said that the new platform would likely launch by the end of 2016. However, speaking at September’s Goldman Sachs Communacopia investors conference in New York, Iger announced the launch would take place in 2017.

McCarthy declined to comment on speculation that Disney may seek to spin off ESPN from the rest of the company, stating sport remained key to Disney’s strategy. McCarthy added that the parent entity was “very pleased with our company assets” and “very bullish on the future of the company”.