Viewers have been clamoring for ESPN to offer a full direct-to-consumer streaming service that includes programming on ESPN’s linear networks for years. Disney has resisted that urge so far, but a DTC service seems inevitable.

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said as much when talking to Bloomberg. Pitaro confidently said that ESPN will go DTC when it makes sense for our business and for our bottom line,” whenever that may be.

“We’re going to get to a point where we take our entire network, our flagship programming, and make it available direct to consumer,” Pitaro said. “That’s a ‘when,’ not an ‘if’….We’re only going to do it when it makes sense for our business and for our bottom line.”

ESPN has experienced plenty of success with ESPN+, their DTC service that launched five years ago and has attracted nearly 25 million subscribers.

This isn’t a new take from inside Disney. Last May during a Disney earnings call, then-CEO Bob Chapek said “when it comes time to actually pull the trigger” while discussing a potential ESPN DTC service. In December, Pitaro directly asked and answered the question himself, saying “will there come a point in time where our flagship channels are available, à la carte direct-to-consumer? Yes.”

When will that time come, and how much will the service cost? Those really are the burning questions, and we don’t have answers quite yet. Based on pricing for DTC services that RSNs have launched over the last year, I’d assume that the absolute floor would be the $19.99 per month that Bally Sports+ costs. As for the ceiling, would an ESPN DTC service exceed the $29.99 per month that MSG and NESN are charging for their services? If any network could, it would probably be ESPN, but anything higher than $30 per month would likely be too jarring for potential customers.

Then again, if a sports fan doesn’t particularly care about all the news and entertainment channels on their cable, satellite, or streaming package, maybe $30/month for ESPN’s content is an interesting place to start for live programming.

Maybe we’ll hear more about this on Disney’s earnings call next week.


About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.