Disney’s first step toward their goal of becoming a dominant force in the direct-to-consumer game has proven successful, at least in the short term. In just over 5 months since its launch, ESPN+ has 1 million subscribers under its belt.
The Walt Disney Company launched ESPN+ in April of this year; the pay-subscription sports service offers access to MLB and NHL sporting events, Soccer, Boxing, Tennis, college football, original programming and more. Prices start at $4.99 per month, but additional packages can be purchased for access to out-of-market games.
Not only is the rapid growth of a customer base important for ESPN, which has seen its own share of issues lately, but it is also a decent gauge of Disney’s direct-to-consumer proficiency. ESPN+ was developed by BamTech, a company Disney purchased majority shares in to use their resources for the creation of new direct-to-consumer services. BamTech is also the creator behind Disney’s upcoming streaming service, which will launch in 2019.
While the content may be vastly different — the streaming service will offer programming already under the Disney umbrella as well as new, original films and TV series — ESPN+’s success is a good way for Disney to judge what works, and what doesn’t, when launching a direct-to-consumer service.
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger referenced in a Hollywood Reporter interview published today the importance of this new direct-to-consumer direction for his company’s success in a increasingly global marketplace. Iger told THR, “You’re going to see growth in direct-to-consumer businesses. You’re probably going to see less channel watching; we’re already seeing that. You’re probably going to see less bundling of channels and more selling of specific brands, programs, etc.”