July 4, 2020

Disney’s ESPN to Create an Internet Sports Channel

The NBA’s agreement on a more than $20 billion multi-year contract with broadcast partners Walt Disney Co and Time Warner Inc was overshadowed by news that Disney’s ESPN is joining the basketball league to create an Internet sports channel available without a pay TV subscription.

A new streaming channel planned by ESPN, which sources familiar with the plans said would be widened to include other sports, is an early step that could upend the traditional cable and satellite companies if it leads to more consumers cancelling their pay TV service.

Cable and satellite providers pay Disney and Time Warner richly for their sports-heavy content. ESPN executives insist they are committed to the current pay TV system, and that any programming sold directly to consumers will complement rather than compete with the content available through pay TV packages.

But others said the streaming channel could have the same kind of transformative effect on sports programming that Netflix Inc has had on dramas and sitcoms.

Denisha Sahadevan

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