OTT & Digital

ESPN+ surpasses 3.5m subscribers

CEO Bob Iger eyeing content expansion for OTT platform.

by Steven Impey

ESPN+ surpasses 3.5m subscribers

Disney is exploring ways to expand live and original programming on its ESPN+ streaming platform after seeing the service pass 3.5 million subscribers during the last financial quarter.

Just 18 months since launching the service, the US media giant’s chief executive Bob Iger has told investors that the company has “numerous interesting opportunities” to expand its ESPN+ portfolio as it eyes further growth.

In February, the platform’s subscriber base surpassed two million less than a year after its launch in April 2018, and looks poised to top four million within two years of going to market.

Over the course of 2019, Iger has expressed interest in expanding the company’s National Football League (NFL) coverage, with the 68-year-old confirming in May that the company has held discussions over the option to acquire streaming rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket.  

Despite growth to the OTT service, revenues generated by Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international (DTCI) division fell below the US$1 billion mark achieved at the end of the company’s fourth quarter in 2018, dropping to roughly US$935 million.

According to the company’s latest statements, this is due partially to its deal to buy control of the Hulu streaming platform in May, having agreed terms to acquire rival Comcast’s 33 per cent share for at least US$5.8 billion.

Ahead of the US launch of the company’s new Disney+ service this month, Iger revealed plans to bundle all three OTT services into one offering, available at a discounted price of US$12.99 per month.

In addition, Iger said that its US$71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets, which was confirmed in August following the federally mandated sale of 22 regional sports networks (RSN) to Sinclair, was “largely driven by the value it brought to our overall DTC strategy”.

He added: “We’ve spent the last few years completely transforming the Walt Disney Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire company on delivering an extraordinary DTC experience.”

Despite growth to its DTC customer base, ESPN's domestic linear advertising revenue was down two per cent in the fourth quarter, though Disney’s overall networks revenue was up 22 per cent to US$6.5 billion.