Let’s say you want to watch NFL football and have cut the cord from cable. So where do you go to see a game? That question once had a simple answer – to one of the three major networks that carried the NFL – CBS, Fox and NBC.
Now, things are getting more complicated, confusing, and yes, expensive. A day after Warner Brothers and Discovery announced a joint new streaming service with ESPN, the longtime sports network also announced they would offer a new standalone streaming app, debuting in 2025.
Disney CEO Bob Iger says the ESPN streaming app will offer more sports-specific content than the combined WB/Discovery/ESPN streaming app. He said the standalone app “will have many more features and provide a much more immersive experience for the sports fan than this bundle has. This bundle is really a channel bundle.”
ESPN has not announced a price for the service. And the implementation of the bundle and how fans receive it may impact their plans. But at this moment, the stand-alone app is a way for ESPN to try to leverage its losses as a cable network and prioritize the future in streaming. The challenge is that the new app would need to offset the revenue they’re losing from the lucrative affiliate fees they’ve collected as a cable network.
There are already questions as to whether the bundle, which allows access to sporting events covered by the three networks, will resonate with sports fans. Per CNBC, the bundle price is likely to be about $40, which makes it cheaper than the streamers where many sports can viewed including Fubo, Hulu+ and YouTube TV.
To use just one sports as an example, Prime Video, NFL Network and Paramount+ all broadcast NFL games this year. So a new app sounds like more confusion for viewers just trying to watch their favorite sporting event. And how much people might be willing to pay for it is unclear.
ESPN+, the network’s current streaming service, requires a cable or streamer subscription. It has more than 25 million subscribers but doesn’t offer Monday Night Football. It’s also been hemorrhaging subscribers, losing almost a million in the last quarter.
“If you’re a sports fan, if you’re a sports league, if you’re an advertiser, even if you’re a distributor, you want to engage with ESPN in some form,” Iger told CNBC. “ESPN has always made a promise to sports fans – that they will service them wherever they are, whenever they want. They’d done a great job doing that and one of the secrets to their success is…and its not a secret, that they serve the sports fan so well. This is a big step in that direction – to serve the sports fan that has not signed up for multi-channel linear TV or that was disenfranchised and didn’t want it, this is a way to do that.”
A breakdown of the channels involved in the new sports bundle below:
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