ESPN's Many Streaming Variations: Any Way You Like It?

Future ESPN business will show the big sports TV/streaming brand hitting consumers with “many different access points” through different levels of content with apps and platforms, according to Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney.

Does that make sense -- or could it perhaps cause some confusion? 

First up, we will soon have the existing ESPN+ service -- a platform with modest levels of sports content -- added to Disney+ as a separate "tile" featured in its opening home page.

In the company's Tuesday morning quarterly financial report, Iger said: "It's a start in terms of essentially conditioning the audience or subscribers to Disney+ and Hulu, the fact that sports is going to be there. And it also will help us in terms of overall engagement with our bundle.”



Later on, ESPN content will also be available on its joint venture with Fox Corp and Warner Bros. Discovery as part of a wide ranging industry-wide sports-focused streaming platform. But it's unclear what specific overall content will be on that platform -- although an initial announcement listed a number of ESPN cable TV networks.

All this will arrive before the full-service ESPN cable TV network makes a total move to digital by the end of 2025.

But this doesn't mean ESPN will be abandoning linear. Iger says “it will remain on linear. If people want to get ESPN and its different channels through a cable or a satellite subscription, that's fine.”

In addition, he says consumers can buy the “ESPN flagship, then you will get all the ESPN+ programming in it. If you do not want that, then you can buy ESPN+ on its own.”

A broader picture of streaming has Iger saying “there will be many different access points to get the digital product to ESPN Digital. They can do so as part of a bundle with other sports services, they can do so directly from ESPN with the ESPN app or they can do it as part of a bundle with our own services.”

Whew. Got it?  

The in-depth, granular business distribution details may not be that important to consumers. But the price is.

In a world of a mature streaming business, where consumers want ease and flexibility in subtracting and adding services, all this could create some issues.

And then consumers will need to determine how much ESPN sports content they want, live or otherwise (and price) when buying: ESPN+ (separate), ESPN+ (on the Disney bundle), ESPN Joint Venture, and ESPN Full Service (digital or legacy TV).

Disney’s steady and often pristine marketing will need to make that clearer to consumers. Iger refers to continuing to seek out “smoother” streaming consumer experiences.

Are there some potholes in these better digital roads?

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