After years of dwindling distribution for the ESPN Classic network, Disney is preparing to shut it down, along with ESPN Classic On Demand, on January 1.
Although Disney has not made a public announcement or commented on the development, Sports Business Journal reported that the company has begun informing cable and satellite distributors about the decision.
Launched as the Classic Sports Network in 1995 by Brian Bedol and Steve Greenberg, the network was acquired by ESPN in 1997.
The network, which originally focused on carrying classic sports events, sports history, documentaries and live specials, began to lose differentiation as vertical sports networks reclaimed rights to archival content and sports content became increasingly accessible through YouTube and other video platforms.
Over time, ESPN Classic shifted toward airing archival content owned by ESPN, ESPN original documentaries, and reruns of recent events and overflow coverage from ESPN’s other networks.
ESPN started to transition Classic from a linear to video-on-demand service in 2014, and ESPN’s digital platforms and the digital cable and satellite ESPNews network have become ESPN’s overflow outlets.
In recent years, Altice USA, AT&T U-verse, Atlantic Broadband, Comcast, DirectTV and Verizon Fios, among others, have dropped ESPN Classic, and Dish TV and DirecTV shifted it to a video-on-demand offering.