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Disney’s ESPN streaming service set for US spring launch

The Walt Disney Company StudiosDisney’s direct-to-consumer sports streaming service, ESPN Plus, is due to launch in the US this spring as part of a revamped ESPN app, according to Mouse House CEO Bob Iger.

The app comes ahead of the launch of Disney’s entertainment-focused global SVOD service next year, which will compete directy with Netflix and Amazon.

Speaking on the company’s first quarter earnings call, Iger said that the service will be priced at US$4.99 and per-month and will be available on a variety of platforms including iOS, Android, tvOS, Chromecast, with more to follow.

“This new business will launch sometime this spring when we unveil a completely re-conceived and redesigned ESPN app which will deliver important new services and experiences to users,” said Iger.

“The changes will be dramatic, with more compelling visuals, as well as an easy, intuitive interface and exceptional video and sound quality.”

The Disney boss said that the app would also offer “an increasingly personalised experience” by using explicit choices and implicit behaviour to curate a mix of content tailored to the tastes of individual users.

The app will offer access to ESPN Plus; provide live streams of ESPN’s networks to subscribers of its multi-channel packages; and deliver scores and highlights, podcasts and other sports information in more user-friendly mobile interface.

Iger said that ESPN Plus will feature a “greatly expanded array of programs and live events for sports fans who want even more content.”

“This subscription service will feature thousands of additional live events, giving fans access to more leagues, more teams and more games than ever before,” he added.

The over-the-top service will feature popular US sports such as Major League Baseball, NHL, and Major League Soccer, as well as events not currently featured on the main ESPN channels like rugby and cricket.
It will also include a full library of ESPN Films, for the example 30 for 30 documentary series, with a “robust slate” of original content exclusively for this platform also in the works.

ESPN Plus will be powered by BamTech, the US-based and Disney-owned streaming media company that recently opened a major new European headquarters in Amsterdam.

Disney upped its investment in BamTech last August and announced at the same time that it would launch an ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018, followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019.

The company agreed to pay US$1.58 billion (€1.34 billion) to increase its stake in BamTech to 75%, having initially bought a 33% share in the company with an option to increase its ownership back in 2016.