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ESPN Expanding International Subscription Streaming Prowess

23 Jan, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Consumers in the United Kingdom, across Europe, the Middle East and Africa can stream X Games and NCAA sports, including 'March Madness'

Walt Disney-owned ESPN continues to quietly ramp up efforts at a standalone subscription-streaming service, dubbed ESPN Player in the United Kingdom and across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

ESPN Player will have exclusive access to the upcoming X Games in Aspen, Colo., beginning Jan. 26, at a daily fee of £3.99/€3.99 ($4.29); weekly for £4.99/€4.99 ($5.36).

The over-the-top video platform enables international consumers with a broadband connection via computer, tablet and smart TV access to ESPN for a daily, monthly or annual fee. The No. 1 premium sports network in the United States is limited to pay-TV networks and a growing online TV market, including Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now and Charter Spectrum TV Plus, among others.

ESPN reportedly lost more than 621,000 pay-TV subscribers last October. The network, which topped 100 million households in 2010, has seen numbers fall to 92 million households in 2015 — a tally that was further reduced last year. That's a significant decline considering ESPN generates about $5 a month in revenue per household — tops in the pay-TV ecosystem.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has made no secret his desire to make ESPN — someday — available as a standalone property in the United States — as evidenced by its prominent placing among online TV skinny bundles. Yet, that stance seemed to be more measured in 2016.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter last summer, Iger dismissed suggestions ESPN was broken, saying instead the network continued to work on a standalone product, also known as the WatchESPN app.

“It’s critical to be as present as possible on all platforms, which ESPN is — but also to monetize them in as effective a way as possible. So what ESPN is exploring, they’re creating more product[s] that can be sold directly to the consumer, while at the same time doing what they can to make the product[s] they sell to the distributors as vital as possible,” Iger said.

During the Nov. 10 fiscal call, Iger reiterated ESPN would migrate well to mobile platforms, adding “some” near-term pay-TV issues were being dealt with.

“We're eyes-wide-open on that. But we think the long-term revenues are going to be just fine,” he said.



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