One of the biggest issues facing Disney at the moment, is how to organise its sports division, ESPN. Earlier this year, Disney made ESPN its own separate division within the company, away from its entertainment and theme park businesses. It’s also looking for a strategic partner to become a co-owner in ESPN, so it can launch a full direct-to-consumer streaming platform in the next few years.
While in the US, Disney currently operates ESPN+ as its main sports streaming platform, which doesn’t have all of the content from the ESPN channels due to existing contracts, internationally, ESPN is a bit hit and miss, but things could be looking to change. According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney is discussing launching a new live sports tier of Disney+ in markets outside of the United States.
In August, Disney closed down its ESPN Player sports app across Europe, The Middle East and Africa, which hosted a wide selection of different types of sports, including American Football, from leagues including the XFL and College. Disney+ internationally already has lots of original content from ESPN, but it hasn’t been adding anything new from its sports division, apart from FX’s “Welcome To Wrexham” show, for months. And since the closure of ESPN Player in some regions, many established ESPN shows are no longer available.
Internationally, sports rights are all over the place, with different systems in place. In Canada, ESPN doesn’t exist due to a previous contract, while recently, Disney extended a deal with Foxtel in Australia for access to ESPN content. And in Latin America, sports content is offered through its Star+ streaming service.
With this new sports tier, this would allow Disney to consolidate many of its international apps, such as merging Star+ and Disney+ in Latin America, plus Hotstar in some regions like Canada, Singapore and the UK. Disney+ Hotstar in India already offers live sports like Cricket, and in Indonesia, WWE is available within Disney+.
Also, adding sports as an additional charge, would allow Disney+ to continue to be offered at a lower price, since adding in live-sports coverage would increase the costs. Many sports fans across Europe, the Middle East and Africa no longer have access to some sports content since the closure of ESPN Player. While the Star+ app in Latin America also offers a wide selection of content, many fans have been angry about the launch of Star+, when the rest of the world was given Star content from FX, ABC and 20th Television included within a Disney+ subscription.
With many streaming services starting to offer some sports content, adding a new sports tier for Disney+ internationally, would allow additional revenue and make the content available in more places, easier, through one single app. Disney plans to launch a new one-app experience later this year in the US, allowing Hulu content to become available through Disney+ in the US, which is already available on Disney+ internationally through the sixth hub, Star.
Recently, Warner Brothers Discovery announced it would be introducing a new sports tier to its Max streaming service in the United States. Recently, it’s also relaunched TNT Sports in the UK. The company continues to offer Eurosport as a paid add-on within its Discovery+ streaming service in many countries.
Officially, Disney hasn’t announced its plans to launch a sports tier within Disney+ internationally, so it’s unknown if this is going to happen or if it is still in the early stages, but more options, should ultimately be better for fans and not forcing all subscribers to pay for sports, is also a benefit.
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Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.