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With both the NFL and NCAA football seasons in our immediate vicinity, ESPN is likely looking for some huge ratings wins for the final third of 2017, but it's in 2018 that things are going to get even bigger. ESPN's long-gestating and majority-encompassing streaming service will finally come together for 2018, thanks in part to parent company Disney planning to drop a cool $1.58 billion for a large stake in the streaming tech company BAMTech.
ESPN's streaming service will be a sports smorgasbord for anyone who can't get enough competitive programming during any given 24-hour period. The service will purportedly air somewhere around 10,000 live sporting events a year, and that'll range from regional to national to international. With the NFL and the NBA currently absent, customers will get to watch Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, National League Hockey, Grand Slam tennis, and some college sports. It's unclear what the commercial situation will be, but Bob Iger's distaste for constant interruptions might be a hint.
Basically, the service will be a souped-up version of ESPN's current app, though one has to assume that acquiring that much more in BAMTech could make things even better than it's assumed now. This will be the one-stop shop for scores, news, analysis, video, and more, and in addition to the multi-sport set-up, legitimate subscribers will be able to access all of ESPN's TV networks,
Previously, Disney footed the bill to acquire a 33% stake in BAMTech from MLBAM, which is Major League Baseball's interactive media and net-focused company, with the option remaining to take on a majority hold in shares at a later date. That later date has obviously arrived, and that $1.58 billion will cover the costs of another 42% stake, which put Disney as a majority shareholder a little earlier in time than most expected. But the House of Mouse and Marvel and Star Wars obviously has plans to make for the future, and it involves putting some innovating and expensive tech to work.
It's kind of unclear at this point how many people are actually interested in getting ESPN's off-the-TV streaming service once it does get here. The company is well-known for its contracts with cable and satellite companies that makes them millions off of customers who may not ever watch, and the drooping subscriber numbers have also been widely reported. (For what it's worth, individual packages will also be available.) It'll also be interesting to see how this new service plays out when it come to ESPN's annual programming budget.
Not that Disney is going to be solely using BAMTech for ESPN's streaming service, as that would be selfish. The entertainment giant is also developing its own standalone subscription streaming service, which should definitely be a worry for Netflix fans, since a lot of programming will be going away when the two companies' deal expires in 2019. Before all that, though, sports!