ESPN streaming service surpasses one million subscribers
ESPN said it has signed up more than one million paying subscribers for the streaming service it launched in April, a boost of confidence for majority-owner Walt Disney Co.’s effort to win over cable TV cord-cutters.
The ESPN+ streaming service, priced at $4.99 a month, offers fans hundreds of live Major League Baseball and National Hockey League games, college football and soccer matches from around the world.
It also carries Top Rank Boxing, Ultimate Fighting Championship matchups, and original studio programming like Detail hosted by Kobe Bryant. The service doesn’t carry live streams from ESPN’s TV channels.
Reaching the one million subscriber mark is a significant milestone for ESPN President James Pitaro, whose primary task since taking the helm in March has been to launch a successful ESPN-branded streaming service.
ESPN this summer converted ESPN Insider subscribers, who were paying $4.99 a month for in-depth sports analysis and tools, to ESPN+ customers. In a statement, the company said the “vast majority” of the one million paying customers are new ESPN+ subscribers who signed up since April. Converted ESPN Insider subscribers are a “significant minority of the total.”
ESPN has lost millions of subscribers to its cable channels in recent years, stoking concerns on Wall Street about the sports TV juggernaut’s financial health and more broadly about how deeply the cord-cutting phenomenon will hurt the entire pay-TV industry.
In a statement, Mr. Pitaro said “combining sports, technology and the ESPN brand is a very powerful combination, and we are just getting started.”
ESPN+ has been a big part of Disney’s efforts to take a piece of the burgeoning streaming economy. Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger has said that the company’s pending acquisition of 21st Century Fox Inc. is a foundational part of its plan to take on Netflix Inc. globally.
ESPN+ faces an array of competitors. Other media companies like AT&T Inc.’s Turner and CBS Corp. have released sports-focused streaming competitors, while tech companies like Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. have showed keen interest in competing with ESPN for marquee sports rights.
In March, longtime Disney corporate strategy executive Kevin Mayer took over a new streaming and international division that will oversee both ESPN+ and a new family-focused streaming service that Disney will launch in 2019.
“We’re thrilled so many sports fans have quickly come to love the service,” Mr. Mayer said in the release. ”The future is bright and we believe growth will continue as we add features, distribution partners and more exclusive content in the coming months.”