The one marketing pitch I never cared for when working in sports television was the “access to thousands of sporting events!”
I know that sounds crazy, but if it’s nothing I want to watch, what’s the appeal? And why pay for it? As fans, we want to watch OUR teams. Sure, the playoffs or big rivalries of college and professional teams can draw a larger viewing audience here and there. But if it’s not what I’m interested in, what’s the point?
ESPN just announced the launch of their first direct-to-consumer service, ESPN+. It’s been hinted for a while now, and the initial launch is coming up fast, April 12. But does it live up to the hype? Not really. Not yet anyway. It makes this promise of thousands of events and a library of programming, but cricket and rugby don’t necessarily do it for me, and probably not for most viewers.
And let’s be real clear about it: You aren’t getting the main ESPN cable channel. You’re getting the right to stream the content through the ESPN app, with an array of programming that almost resembles a partly put together puzzle. It’s an average offering of average sports. You’ve probably seen most of the highlights, but here are the Cliffs Notes:
* 1 MLB regular season game per day
* 1 NHL regular season game per day
* Tennis matches from Wimbledon, U.S. Open, Australian Open
* Coverage of PGA Tour events
* Top-ranked boxing matches
* 250 MLS games
* Various college acronyms I’d have to Google
I’d like to think I always see both sides to things, think things through, and from there weigh my options. So I went ahead and pulled the major positives and negatives of this newly anticipated service. So with that said:
Pro: Price point is good, at $4.99 per month, with in-season professional league content
Con: The more appealing product above has major restrictions, including no playoff content. And that MLB/NHL game per day? It won’t be your local team, due to local exclusivity rights. It’ll be a random game that you can only hope is decent. Why do you think MLB Extra Innings and NHL Center Ice are worthless locally? For this exact reason, it protects the home market. If you live out of town, stick with the out of market packages.
Pro: MLB Extra Innings is available for $24.99 a month through the app, if you want to try it out for a month or two.
Con: It’s much more expensive to pay for it monthly than annually. You can get it under $200 for the season on many different platforms.
IT’S OFFICIAL! Our next film “The Last Days of Knight” will premiere and start streaming April 12 on ESPN+ pic.twitter.com/lU70gUyl3X
— ESPN Films 30 for 30 (@30for30) April 3, 2018
Pro: The library of 30 for 30 documentaries will be available, including some possible original content made available exclusively through the app. Now, this is something I can get behind. As a documentary nut, it may be worth it to see what’s available.
Con: The exclusivity of the content available only on the app. I always believed if you are paying for the linear channel, you should have access to all content. It’s the most expensive channel on your bill, so don’t limit me, bro!
Pro: Literally thousands of hours of sports content.
Con: Literally thousands of hours of sports content. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s worthless if you’re not interested in it. (Though any golf does help make a good catnap even better).
Let’s end on some positives, though. First, I’ll be your guinea pig with the app. I’ll explore and report back what’s available, what’s not, how much cricket I will try to stomach, and if my golf game improves, so stay tuned.
As the saying goes, the best comes to those who wait. With the acquisition of the FOX Regional Sports Networks and other major sports content, this is only the beginning for ESPN+. That partly put-together puzzle will become complete. More and more prime content will be added, and I believe that will include your local sports teams, like Fox Sports GO has now. BAMTech, after all, is what FOX uses now to bring professional content through FSGO, which Disney now owns the majority stake in. And it won’t be just sports.
Disney has already hinted at the entertainment/movies app rolling out in 2019, and with the entertainment product they are getting from FOX? Name a more powerful duo. I’ll wait.