ESPN Prepping Standalone OTT Service

ESPN is working on a direct-to-consumer streaming service. With some limitations, this is still an important first step outside the bundle offer.

It's been a long time coming. At a time of evolution and change in the pay TV industry, where services are launching customized offers for their consumers, ESPN is at last taking a major step in this direction.

The sports giant is reportedly launching a direct-to-consumer streaming service, focused on niche sports.

According to The Information, the new service will focus on "niche leagues" and college sports, leaving out major leagues like the NBA and NFL, for which Disney-owned ESPN pays billions of dollars to show in the pay TV ecosystem.

Not many details have been revealed yet about the potential launch date, availability or its price, but Bob Iger, CEO of Disney, offer some insight.

"Is it inevitable that ESPN will have a more direct consumer product in the marketplace? Yes. What that product is, to what extent it mirrors the product they have now and to what extent it is … I’ll call it an offshoot," said the executive last month. "I can’t get into those details. I don’t think it’s safe to assume ESPN is going to take the product it has now and immediately take it over the top like HBO did to sell directly to consumers."

ESPN currently has the highest licensing rate in the pay TV universe. But, as times are changing, the company is no stranger to losing traditional subscribers, and same as everyone else, it's trying to devise a new plan that tends to those younger viewers who are slowly leaving the pay TV ecosystem.

Last year, ESPN streamed the Cricket World Cup directly to consumers, showing 49 matches over six weeks for US$ 100.

And last month, Disney reportedly bought a stake in streaming tech company Major League Baseball Advanced Media, a move that could be a precursor to the launch of a live streaming service.

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