Last year, it was revealed by Disney CEO Bob Iger that he was looking for a new strategic partner that could help them with distribution or content and that they’d had talks with many potential partners.
The major reason for these talks is that Disney is planning on making a full direct-to-consumer version of ESPN, offering everything that’s available on their cable networks, rather than just the slimmed-down version they currently have, ESPN+.
These talks have been with many different companies, including Amazon and Verizon, along with major sporting leagues in the United States, including the NFL, NHL and NBA.
According to the New York Post, Disney has been in advance talks with the NFL, over a future with ESPN, where the NFL could take an equity stake in ESPN, with ESPN getting control of NFL Media, which includes NFL Network, NFL.com, Red Zone, NFL Films, and NFL+.
These talks are at the point where the team owners and the NFL Players Association have been informed about the talks since the NFLPA shares revenue and would need to approve the deal.
This move would drastically help ESPN get into a stronger position to keep viewers engaged, especially as sports viewing among younger viewers has dipped off and consumers shift to streaming services away from linear cable channels. There are many cost synergies that could be made between the NFL Media and ESPN operating together, and provide ESPN viewers with more NFL coverage.
There is no exact release date for this new full ESPN streaming service, but initial expectations have been that Disney is looking to launch this in 2025. It has been resigning new deals with many sports platforms to ensure they have both streaming and linear rights, but the launch could be sped up, as audiences push for more access to major sports events via streaming services.
The NFL has been trying to find a buyer for its NFL Media business for years, but has been unable to find someone willing to do so. ESPN and the NFL are already business partners, with Monday Night Football being a major draw for audiences, which results in Disney paying $2.6 billion for the rights to 25 games throughout the season.
With the talks still ongoing, it could be months until a deal is finalised, and other partners could also be involved.
ESPN+ is already available through Hulu, and it’s likely Disney will want to make it as easy as possible for its streaming bundle subscribers to access content between its apps in the future, so it will be interesting to see where this all goes. But with sporting content becoming so crucial to the future of ESPN and streaming in general, major moves like this will likely make ESPN one of the major sports hubs of the world.
Do you think the NFL should join part of ESPN? Let us know on social media!
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.