The Walt Disney Company announced that it has agreed to acquire majority ownership of BAMTech, LLC and will launch its ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018, followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019.
The ESPN-branded multi-sport service will offer a vast array of sports programming, featuring approximately 10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year, including Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, Grand Slam tennis, and even college sports. Individual sport packages will also be available for purchase including MLB.TV, NHL.TV and MLS Live.
The new service will be accessed through an enhanced version of the current ESPN app. In addition to the multi-sport service, the ESPN app will include the news, highlights, and scores that fans enjoy today. Consumers who are pay TV subscribers will also be able to access the ESPN television networks in the same app on an authenticated basis. For many sports fans, this app will become the premier digital destination for all their sports content.
The new Disney-branded service will become the exclusive home in the United States for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of the newest live action and animated movies produced and made by Disney and Pixar, beginning with the 2019 theatrical slate which includes Toy Story 4, the sequel to Frozen, and the new live-action The Lion King. Disney will also make a significant investment in an annual slate of original movies, TV shows, short-form content and other Disney-branded exclusives for the service. Additionally, the service will feature a vast collection of library content, including older Disney and Pixar movies and Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD television programming.
With this strategic shift, Disney will end its distribution agreement with Netflix for subscription streaming of new releases, beginning with the 2019 calendar year theatrical slate. Disney has not determined what will happen with Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios titles yet – they’ll announce this at a later date. Could they be getting their own streaming services as well? Only time will tell.