Disney Has Eye On Selling ESPN Direct To Viewers

Following the lead of networks such as HBO and CBS, Disney is considering offering sports channel ESPN as a standalone service.

Disney CEO Bob Iger


Both major networks announced late last year they would be offering streaming services that didn’t require audiences to pay for TV subscription. With two such large networks embracing the idea of ‘un-bundling, or de-bundling’, it’s makes sense that others will do the same. While it may be still too early to tell how popular these standalone deals are, HBO have moved even further in 2015 with the service, HBO Now, available on iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV. Showtime has also recently received the same treatment.

So what are Disney’s plans? The Wall Street Journal has reported Bog Iger as saying the move is inevitable for them but not as soon as some might expect. “I think eventually ESPN becomes a business that is sold directly to the consumers,” he said but also stressed that it was not around the corner or even on the cards for the next five years. It is the most expensive of the current bundles and would have to charge much more than the other networks to maintain the same revenue, around $30/month compared to HBO’s $15/month.

Iger stated:

“Technology is the most disruptive force that so-called traditional media […] is facing. [But] while the business model may face challenges over the next few years, long term for ESPN […] they’ll be fine.”

For Disney, it’s a case of not fixing something that isn’t clearly broken, and it remains to be seen whether consumers are happy buying their favourite shows one at a time instead of having them all available in a bundle. The price would quickly build up for those who want to branch out beyond just having HBO, or Showtime.

While Iger says “We view technology as a friend, not a foe,” he’s not completely sold on the idea. He might have good reason to keep things status quo. Variety has reported via a survey that ‘only 35.7% of consumers would add ESPN to their personal a la carte line-up of TV channels if they had the choice.’ That ranks it at 20th position in a list of consumer candidates behind the likes of History and Discovery.

More than 80 per cent of respondents stated they would like the choice to pick and choose their own channel preferences.

What channel would you choose to buy as a stand alone option?