ESPN is reportedly focused on switching from a traditional TV channel to a streaming channel and this may result in the launch of a standalone ESPN streaming service in the future. A move which could greatly impact on the need for a live TV plan for many sports fans.
The suggestion that ESPN is trying to get more involved with streaming is nothing new. Earlier this year, a report emerged which suggested that ESPN was trying to establish itself as a live sports streaming hub where it not only shows live content but also links out to live content it is not showing.
What may or may not be a part of that wider ambition is Disney’s reported attempts to move to a streaming-first model. According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney is currently in the process of laying the groundwork to sell the live ESPN channel directly to consumers.
According to the details, ESPN will still be available as live TV bundled channel, it is just that there will also be a direct-to-consumer way to access the channel as well. Essentially, removing the need for a live TV package for ESPN altogether.
While ESPN does already offer ESPN Plus as a direct-to-consumer solution, the two services are very different and ESPN Plus is not a direct replacement for the linear ESPN channel. That’s what’s different with this latest report, as the suggestion is that the linear ESPN channel will become available as a direct-to-consumer service, similar to ESPN Plus.
As is often the case with these types of reports, there is currently no word on when a streaming version of the channel might go live, if it ever does. However, the suggestion that Disney is actively looking into this and trying to make it work is a good indication that, eventually, a move like this could happen.
If and when it does, it does also raise the question of what happens with the other linear sports channels. While sports remains one of the main reasons homes sign up to an expensive live TV package, if enough sports channels sever ties with those packages, the live TV landscape could suddenly look very different.
Again, that outcome could be some ways away right now. In the meantime, ESPN fans will have to continue paying for a live TV package that includes ESPN, or make do with the content available through a standalone ESPN Plus subscription.