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Disney CEO: ESPN streaming service may take cues from Now TV

Bob Iger

Bob Iger

Disney’s planned ESPN streaming service will not have a one-size-fits-all payment model and could take its cues from Sky’s Now TV service, according to Bob Iger.

Speaking at Goldman Sachs’ 25th Annual Communacopia Conference in New York yesterday, the Disney CEO said the forthcoming ESPN offering may enable users to pay for “a specific sport, maybe even for a specific season, or a specific date or a specific weekend”.

“That could be really interesting for fans that may not want to buy another bundle of sports rights but maybe want very specific sports that they’re willing to step up and pay for,” said Iger.

“I think a lot of people think about it as a monthly fee or a yearly subscription – we haven’t really gotten that far in terms of our planning, but one of the things that we have been talking about is it should not be a one-size-fits-all.”

Iger said ESPN thinks the market may be going in a more selective direction, citing Sky’s Now TV offering in the UK that lets users pay to access the full compliment of Sky Sports content on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

However, he stressed that ESPN’s over-the-top service would not act as a substitute for ESPN’s existing business, but would instead allow the broadcaster to unlock the “treasure trove” of digital rights that it is has at its disposal.

“Let’s look at it as an add-on product, not a product that is a substitute product for ESPN – the mothership. We’ve got this huge collection of rights that we can use to create an additional sports service,” said Iger.

He claimed that in almost all instances EPSN licenses both traditional and digital media rights when it agrees professional and college sports deals and said that ESPN now aims to make a business out of the “99% of sports that it covers that it is not fully exploiting on new platforms.”

Disney first announced in August that it launch an ESPN-branded subscription streaming service, after buying a US$1 billion (€900 million) stake in video streaming technology firm BAMTech.

At the time Iger said the company aimed to launch the ESPN service “probably by the end of the year.” However, speaking yesterday he said that it would now likely be 2017.

BAMTech grew out of Major League Baseball’s interactive media and Internet company, MLB Advanced Media (MBLAM), and has clients including the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, and WWE Network.

Disney agreed to acquire a 33% stake in the business with the option to acquire majority ownership in the coming years, and said at the time of the deal that it will use the company as a key partner for delivering streamed video and other digital products from both ESPN and Disney-ABC Television Group.