As part of a deal, the possibility of Amazon snaffling a minority stake in ESPN is also mentioned by the report from The Information (which, as ever with chatter from the grapevine, we should regard with some caution).
According to people who are ‘familiar’ with the situation, it’s believed that ESPN could charge from $20 up to as much as $35 for the monthly fee to subscribe to its fully fledged streaming product.
This would be very different to the existing ESPN Plus product (below), and it’d be more all-encompassing than that current service, which allows for streaming a relatively small slice of sports games and related content. The incoming ESPN streaming service would basically mirror its cable offering, we’re told.
Disney is likely looking to cook up multiple partnerships with this streaming service, which is definitely coming – though we don’t have any idea of a potential launch date yet. That would include deals with multiple sports leagues – the NFL, NBA, and MBL are being tapped for content for the service – and a partnership with a big tech or telecoms firm to distribute the content, which is of course where Amazon might come in.
As well as Amazon, Verizon has expressed an interest in ESPN previously, and Apple has been linked to the sports network just last week, as Apple Insider reported.
Analyst Dan Ives told Apple Insider that Apple is gunning to out-and-out acquire ESPN within the next nine months (noting that “live sports content is the golden goose” for Tim Cook’s firm).
While Ives is firmly betting on a buyout, others from the rumor mill have been talking about the possibly of a strategic partnership between Apple and ESPN – or indeed Amazon and ESPN as we see here. Certainly, The Information report underlines that Disney won’t give up control of ESPN.
However, as mentioned, Amazon could take a minority stake in the sports network, with an up to 30% stake being the level that Disney would be willing to cede to Amazon (or a different distributor, for that matter, if the cards of the deal fall elsewhere).
Amazon wouldn’t be drawn to comment on these rumored talks, as you’d expect. It is, however, looking to move further into the sports sphere, as evidenced by picking up the rights to Thursday Night Football (for a decade going forward).
Analysis: A possible price shock
Whether Amazon or Apple will hook up with Disney for the inbound ESPN streaming service, or another tech behemoth entirely steps up to the plate, is likely not as big a concern as one factor floated in this new report.
Most of the reaction we’ve seen has been shock at that floated asking price of $20 all the way up to $35 monthly. Now, we should say at this point that these are just figures floating down from the rumor mill.
Also, The Information’s sources do make it clear that Disney and ESPN bigwigs are still discussing and researching what level to pitch the subscription price at, so maybe the mentioned figures could yet be reined somewhat.
However, ESPN is expensive in the cable realm, and indeed there are other ominous rumblings in the report. Namely that if a significant amount of new content is secured from the NFL, NBA, and MBL, the price of the new ESPN streaming offering could even rise above $35 monthly.
Yikes, in a word. That really would put the gold into the proverbial golden goose. Again, both the pricing and partnership negotiations are still in their relatively early days, but still – this has to be a concern for streaming fans.