Earlier this month, Disney CEO Bob Iger revealed during an interview with CNBC following the extension of his contract, that Disney is looking to launch a new ESPN direct-to-consumer streaming service and that they are looking for some new strategic partners for ESPN that could help them with distribution or content.
Following this news, it was revealed that Disney has been in discussions with the NFL, NHL and NBA about potentially becoming partners in ESPN. And many analysts have speculated that Apple, Amazon or Comcast could also be a potential partner for ESPN.
And this week, ESPN chief Jimmy Pitaro, spoke at an event and shared an update on them looking for a strategic partner for ESPN:
“We are going to be making our flagship channels available direct to consumer. And yes as a part of that we are interested in partners. Partners that we think can make the flagship product more compelling. And so we’re looking at things like distribution, technology, marketing, and content and yeah, Bob and I have had conversations, we’ve been having conversations. It’s early but we’ve both been very pleased by what I’ll call a healthy level of interest in ESPN.”
When pressed about who could be a partner for ESPN, Jimmy dodged the question:
“I will emphasize the fact that we believe that there are parties out there that can help us on the content side. And so you can draw whatever conclusions you want from that. But, you know, my priority is when we do launch flagship channels directly to the consumer a la carte, that the content proposition is as compelling as it can be.”
While Disney does offer ESPN+ as a streaming service in the US, it only offers a limited selection of content and doesn’t offer everything that the cable platforms provide. Jimmy Pitaro repeated that ESPN will go direct-to-consumer eventually, but isn’t in a rush to do so, since the cable business side is still bringing in lots of revenue:
“We are obviously very aware of what’s happening in the traditional television world. And that business model has been very good to ESPN and the Walt Disney Company. At the same time., Bob and I have been clear that taking our channels, our flagship channels direct to consumer is a when, it’s not if.
Disney is trying to reduce its costs and has been making many changes to save billions of dollars including restructuring its business earlier this year, making ESPN a separate division from theme parks and entertainment. Earlier this month Disney extended a deal with Foxtel to keep ESPN content on linear and revealed it would be closing down its ESPN Player streaming service across Europe, Africa and the Middle East in August.
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