ESPN Considers an OTT Service Anchored Around Soccer
ESPN (News - Alert) is mulling an over-the-top (OTT) strategy for offering online access to live Major League Soccer games, as a way to add revenue without alienating its existing model of working solely with pay-TV operators for distribution.
Cable, IPTV (News - Alert) and satellite distribute ESPN's cable channels and provide authentication to the Watch ESPN TV Everywhere app. But while that’s the network’s bread and butter ($6.04 per month per subscriber, according to research firm SNL Kagan), ESPN president and co-chairman of Disney (News - Alert) Media Networks John Skipper said that it was also looking to other ways to add revenue by offering access to new programming not found on the linear networks.
"We've just got to think about other business models," Skipper said at an event in Bristol, CT, where ESPN is headquartered. "We're not far along on any of them, but we do think about how we might capture more money direct from consumers."
He said that the network’s recent eight-year deal with MLS giving the ESPN and Univision networks the rights to national broadcasts is a starting point. In addition to broadcast rights and the right to offer a premium package of 200 games outside of viewers' local markets, the company bought full digital rights to the games.
"You saw us buy MLS digital rights. It was a clue, but we still don't know what we will do with that,” Skipper said. “That's a direct-to-consumer package we bought. We could do it just like it's done now through multichannel distributors or we can do something different with it to go direct to consumer.”
According to a source speaking to Reuters, that could mean a consumer-facing special section within the ESPN3 online video app. ESPN said that it will make a decision in the next few months.Interestingly, this isn’t the only foray into OTT for ESPN. DISH Network in March renewed its agreement with Disney for carrying sports, news and entertainment content from ESPN, ABC and Disney across TVs, computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and connected devices. But, the expanded deal now also grants DISH the rights to stream cleared linear and video-on-demand (VOD) content from the ABC-owned broadcast stations, ABC Family, Disney Channel, ESPN and ESPN2, as part of what it calls “an Internet delivered, IP-based multichannel offering”—i.e., an OTT service.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson