ESPN+ (pronounced ESPN Plus) is an over-the-top video streaming subscription service available in the United States, owned by Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International, in partnership with ESPN Inc., which is a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company (which owns a controlling 80% stake) and the Hearst Communications (which owns the remaining 20%).
|Founded||April 12, 2018|
|Area served||United States|
|Owner||The Walt Disney Company (80%)|
Hearst Communications (20%))
(Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International, in partnership with ESPN Inc.
|Key people||Russell Wolff (EVP, general manager)|
|Users||2 million+ as of February 2019[update]|
|Launched||April 12, 2018|
ESPN+ is marketed as an add-on subscription on top of ESPN's core linear networks, with content similar to or having been exclusively moved to the service from ESPN3 (thus having been paywalled in comparison to WatchESPN, which offered the content at no additional charge to ESPN subscribers), such as combat sports (including coverage of the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Top Rank boxing), college sports, cricket, rugby union, soccer (including out-of-market Major League Soccer matches), golf (including coverage of the PGA Championship and The Masters) and tennis. The National Hockey League and Major League Baseball's out-of-market sports packages (which are both, as with ESPN+, operated using technology of Disney subsidiary BAMTech) are sold through the platform as add-ons. The service also features archive content and ESPN original documentaries, and access to premium content on ESPN.com. As of March 2019, ESPN+ is the exclusive outlet for UFC pay-per-view events, sold for an additional fee.
As of February 7, 2019, the service has over 2 million paying subscribers.
In August 2016, The Walt Disney Company acquired a minority stake in BAMTech, a spin-out of MLB Advanced Media's streaming technology business, for $1 billion, with an option to acquire a majority stake in the future. It was also announced that Disney subsidiary ESPN was planning to develop an over-the-top service based on BAMTech technology as "an exploratory OTT project", drawing primarily from ESPN-owned rights for events not broadcast on television. ESPN already used BAMTech's platform for its TV Everywhere service WatchESPN. Disney CEO Bob Iger remarked that despite declines in the pay television industry due to cord-cutting, "live sports has really thrived, even in a world where there's so much more for people to do and to watch."
In August 2017, Disney invoked its option to acquire a controlling stake in BAMTech, and announced that it planned to launch its ESPN OTT service in 2018, followed by a Disney entertainment OTT service in 2019 (thus ending its relationship with Netflix). At this time, Disney stated that the new ESPN service would draw from ESPN-owned sports rights, as well as MLB, NHL, and Major League Soccer content (although lacking major ESPN-owned rights such as the NBA and NFL), and that an accompanying redesign of the ESPN app would make it a "premier digital destination" for sports content. During Disney's fourth-quarter earnings call, Iger revealed that the service would be known as ESPN+. In December 2017, Disney announced its intent to acquire 21st Century Fox after the spin-off of certain businesses. The deal was to include the Fox Sports Networks group of regional sports networks (however Disney was ordered to divest them under antitrust grounds), which led to suggestions that Disney wanted the networks to order to incorporate their respective local sports rights into the service.
In February 2018, Iger stated that ESPN was aiming for a monthly price of $4.99. ESPN+ and BAMTech were placed into the newly formed Disney business segment, Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, on March 14, 2018. On April 2, 2018, ESPN announced that ESPN+ would officially launch on April 12, 2018, and confirmed its $4.99 per-month pricing.
On August 21, 2018, ESPN announced that it had merged its existing ESPN Insider subscription service into ESPN+, adding access to premium ESPN.com content (such as exclusive beat reports, and advanced sports statistics and analytics tools) to the service. Both services shared the same monthly price, but ESPN Insider's existing annual subscribers were grandfathered under its previous $39.99 per-year price (as opposed to $49.99 for ESPN+), and all former ESPN Insider subscribers continued to receive the complimentary subscription to ESPN The Magazine that was part of the subscription until it ended print distribution with the September 2019 issue.
On October 31, 2018, ESPN executive Russell Wolff was named executive vice president and general manager.
On August 6, 2019, Disney announced that it will offer a bundle of ESPN+ with Disney+ and the ad-supported Hulu for US$12.99 per-month. The bundle will be available on November 12, the same day of the launch of Disney+.
The service focuses primarily on overflow content similar to that of ESPN's existing digital service ESPN3 (which is distributed to subscribers of participating internet and television subscribers), though some of ESPN3's content has been shifted exclusively to ESPN+, such as most Canadian Football League coverage. Its launch content includes boxing (including Top Rank events and archive content through 2025), college sports events (including Ivy League events, with the conference having reached a 10-year media rights deal with ESPN prior to the service's launch), coverage of Tennis Grand Slams, as well as international cricket (Cricket Ireland and New Zealand Cricket), soccer (including Major League Soccer, the United Soccer League, the U.S. Open Cup, 2019 Copa America, the English Football League, Serie A, Eredivisie and UEFA Nations League) and rugby union events (including SANZAAR tournaments, Bledisloe Cup, Currie Cup, Major League Rugby, Mitre 10 Cup, Pro14, and the World Rugby Sevens Series). In October 2018, ESPN+ obtained the rights for the Swedish Allsvenskan and the Danish Superliga as well, declaring their intent to broadcast one match per week for each league.
ESPN+ features out of market Major League Soccer matches at no additional charge for subscribers (replacing the previous MLS Live service), and the service holds exclusive rights to all regionally televised Chicago Fire matches through 2020 (as the second MLS team, behind Los Angeles FC's deal with YouTube TV, to sell its regional rights to a streaming service). MLB.tv and NHL.tv (which are operated by BAMTech) are also available for purchase within the ESPN+ platform, and offer daily games during their regular seasons for ESPN+ subscribers.
PGA Tour Live (which was also ran by BAMTech) was included for the 2018 PGA Tour season, but moved to NBC Sports Gold in 2019. ESPN+ will offer supplemental feeds during the PGA Championship beginning 2020, including during CBS broadcast windows.
It also carries ESPN original programming and documentaries, such as the 30 for 30 franchise (one entry, The Last Days of Knight, premiered on ESPN+ several weeks before its linear ESPN premiere), and exclusive original series. ESPN+ does not include access to the full ESPN linear channels, as they will only be available through "traditional or non-traditional" television providers. Thus, ESPN's major professional sports rights, including National Football League, National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball coverage, are not included in the service.
In May 2018, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) announced new five-year digital and linear television rights deals with ESPN, effective January 2019. 20 live UFC on ESPN+ Fight Night events per-year will be streamed exclusively by the service, as well as preliminaries for 10 live UFC on ESPN Fight Night events per-year. ESPN+ will also hold rights to supplemental content such as Dana White's Contender Series, archive content and PPV encores, and offer sales of UFC Fight Pass within the platform. The first ESPN+ event, UFC Fight Night: Cejudo vs. Dillashaw, generated 525,000 new subscribers on the day of the event alone.
On March 18, 2019, it was announced that ESPN had reached a two-year extension of its contract with the UFC. Beginning at UFC 236, it is also the exclusive carrier of all UFC pay-per-view events for residential customers. Viewers must have an active ESPN+ subscription in order to purchase future UFC pay-per-views, and they are no longer sold through television providers. Also that month, the American Athletic Conference announced a 12-year deal with ESPN, under which ESPN+ will carry the majority of events not aired by ESPN's linear channels.
Exclusive original series have also been produced for ESPN+:
- Detail - A basketball analysis show hosted and produced by Kobe Bryant. In October 2018, ESPN announced that Peyton Manning would host an NFL version of the program. On June 29, 2019, ESPN announced that Daniel Cormier would host a mixed martial arts version of the program.
- ESPN FC - A soccer analysis show that moved from airing on the networks to exclusively being on ESPN+.
- In The Crease - a daily NHL highlight and discussion show hosted by Linda Cohn and Barry Melrose.
- Quest for the Stanley Cup - A documentary series following the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs (moving from Showtime).
- Last Train to Russia - A documentary series previewing the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
- Year One - A documentary series following the 2017-2018 NBA Rookie Class, featuring Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, and Donovan Mitchell.
- MLS Rewind - A weekly recap of Major League Soccer action, hosted by Taylor Twellman and featuring analysis from Alejandro Moreno.
- I'll Take That Bet - A series focusing on sports betting, in conjunction with The Action Network.
- Ariel and the Bad Guy - A weekly mixed martial arts discussion show hosted by Ariel Helwani and Chael Sonnen.
- The Fantasy Show - A fantasy football analysis show hosted by Matthew Berry. Originally aired on ESPN2 in its first season.
- Always Late with Katie Nolan - A late night talk show-inspired series hosted by Katie Nolan, serving as a successor to her previous Fox Sports 1 program Garbage Time. The start of its second season in late September 2019 will see it being carried on the mainline ESPN2 network on Thursday evenings, in addition to continued ESPN+ carriage.
- Peyton's Places - A documentary series hosted by legendary quarterback Peyton Manning.
- NFL Primetime - Hosted by Chris Berman and Tom Jackson, a digital-only version of the popular NFL highlight show that aired on ESPN for nearly 30 years. The program airs live at 7:30 p.m. on Sundays during the NFL season and is updated with highlights from the Sunday and Monday night games upon their completion; this is due to contractual highlight restrictions on cable and broadcast involving NBC's Football Night in America and NFL GameDay Highlights on NFL Network.
- Spangler, Todd (October 31, 2018). "Disney Puts Longtime ESPN Exec Russell Wolff in Charge of ESPN+ Streaming Service". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
- "Bob Iger Talks Disney's Streaming Service, 'Roseanne,' James Gunn and a Coming 'Star Wars' "Slowdown"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-11-09.
- "ESPN+ will launch on April 12th for $4.99 per month". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
- "What's Behind Disney's $1 Billion Investment in Major League Baseball's Digital Arm". Variety. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
- Miller, Daniel (August 9, 2016). "Walt Disney Co. buys stake in video streaming service BAMTech". Los Angeles Times. Tronc. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
- Spangler, Todd (August 8, 2017). "Disney to End Netflix Deal, Sets Launch of ESPN and Disney-Branded Streaming Services". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
- "Disney Touts 2 New Streaming Services, Including ESPN Plus and One With a Live-Action Star Wars Series". Adweek. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
- Littleton, Cynthia (June 27, 2018). "Justice Department Approves Disney's Acquisition of 21st Century Fox With Divestiture of Regional Sports Networks". Variety. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
- "Disney's pursuit of Fox RSNs could be big boost for ESPN". FierceCable. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
- "Disney sets price for new ESPN Plus streaming service at $4.99 per month". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
- Lang, Brent (2018-02-06). "ESPN Streaming Service Coming This Spring for $4.99". Variety. Retrieved 2018-02-07.
- Wang, Christine (March 14, 2018). "Disney announces strategic reorganization, effective immediately". CNBC. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
- Spangler, Todd (2018-08-21). "ESPN Insider Subscribers Being Switched to ESPN+ Streaming Service". Variety. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
- Alexander, Julia (2019-08-06). "Disney announces $12.99 bundle for Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+". The Verge. Retrieved 2019-08-06.
- "U.S. fans with cable will have to pay $5/month more to watch the 68 CFL games on ESPN+". Awful Announcing. 2018-05-24. Retrieved 2018-05-26.
- Theisen, Lauren. "ESPN's New $4.99-A-Month Service Is Taking Away Some Programming On ESPN3". Deadspin. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
- Hayes, Dade (2018-08-02). "ESPN Sets Landmark Boxing Deal With Top Rank Through 2025". Deadline. Retrieved 2018-08-02.
- "Smart TV: ESPN+ to air over 1,100 Ivy games". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
- "ESPN+ signs deal for exclusive U.S. Open Cup rights through 2022". Awful Announcing. 2019-04-05. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
- "Copa America rights snaffled by ESPN+". SportsPro. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
- "ESPN enters into multi-year deal with Italy's Serie A". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
- "ESPN reveals entire soccer programming setup for ESPN+ that include MLS, UEFA matches and exclusive documentaries". Awful Announcing. 2018-04-06. Retrieved 2018-04-28.
- "ESPN's Web Service Gains Exclusive Pro Soccer Rights". Bloomberg.com. 2018-02-13. Retrieved 2018-02-13.
- "How to watch out-of-market MLS matches in 2018". MLSSoccer.com. Retrieved March 4, 2018.
- "FAQs: Chicago Fire on ESPN+". Chicago Fire. March 9, 2018. Retrieved March 9, 2018.
- Pimiento, Juan. "Chicago Fire sign exclusive TV deal with ESPN+ streaming service". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2018-03-10.
- Spangler, Todd (2018-07-31). "NBC Sports, PGA Tour Ink Three-Year Deal for Live-Streaming Golf Subscription Package (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved 2018-08-21.
- Ourand, John; Lombardo, John (October 10, 2018). "PGA Championship Leaving TNT For ESPN In '20, Re-Ups With CBS". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved October 10, 2018.
- Hayes, Dade (2018-05-08). "ESPN Enters The Octagon With UFC Streaming Deal". Deadline. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
- Hayes, Dade (2018-05-08). "ESPN Enters The Octagon With UFC Streaming Deal". Deadline. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
- "Report: ESPN wrestles UFC television-rights deal away from Fox Sports". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
- "Report: ESPN lands UFC television rights deal, reportedly worth $150 million per year". Bloody Elbow. Retrieved 2018-05-23.
- Alexander, Mookie (2019-01-21). "UFC's ESPN+ debut pulls in 525,000 new subscribers on Saturday night". Bloody Elbow. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
- "ESPN Extends With UFC; ESPN+ Becomes Exclusive PPV Provider". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
- "ESPN signs 12-year, $1 billion deal with AAC, moves lots of games to ESPN+". Awful Announcing. 2019-03-19. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
- "AAC, ESPN Agree To 12-Year Media-Rights Deal Worth $1B". www.sportsbusinessdaily.com. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
- Murschel, Matt. "AAC leader Mike Aresco touts new media rights deal, addresses ESPN+ criticism". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2019-05-03.
- World TeamTennis. "WTT 2019: HOW TO WATCH WORLD TEAMTENNIS". World TeamTennis. Retrieved 2019-06-21.
- "Kobe Bryant to produce and star in new basketball analysis show 'Detail,' to air on ESPN+". Awful Announcing. 2018-04-05. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
- "Peyton Manning to host NFL themed "Detail" show on ESPN+". Awful Announcing. 2018-10-17. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
- "Quest for the Stanley Cup moves from Showtime to ESPN+". Awful Announcing. 2018-04-13. Retrieved 2018-05-08.
- "ESPN+ To Live Stream Hundreds of Soccer Matches". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
- "Disney kicks off its streaming future today with ESPN+". The Verge. Retrieved 2018-04-13.
- "The Long Read: Will Disney's push over the top see ESPN reclaim the summit?". SportsPro. Retrieved 2017-12-19.
- "TV networks will be panning for talent as part of the rush to claim gambling gold". Sporting News. 2018-06-12. Retrieved 2018-06-13.
- Lucia, Joe (2 May 2018). "New ESPN digital shows include Katie Nolan late night show, daily SportsCenter series in ESPN app". Awful Announcing. Retrieved 3 September 2018.
- Marchand, Andrew (5 September 2019). "ESPN's plan to reignite Katie Nolan's show". The New York Post. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
- "Peyton Manning to Host New ESPN+ Original Series "Peyton's Places"". The Futon Critic. April 15, 2019.
- "NFL PrimeTime with Chris Berman and Tom Jackson Returns for the 2019-20 NFL Season on ESPN+". ESPN Press Room. September 13, 2019.