Want ESPN Without Having To Buy Other Channels? Maybe In A Few Years

As some cable and live-streaming services take a step back from offering costly sports-filled channels in their bundles, the parent company of the biggest sports network on cable is looking at other ways to continue its dominance, namely by selling direct to consumers.

At least that’s the gist of Disney CEO Bob Iger’s recent interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box, in which he suggested that ESPN would one day go the way of HBO Now and other premium cable channels by offering a streaming option available outside of current cable packages.

But don’t hold your breath for an ESPN-only a la carte option, as Iger says the product is likely five or more years out.

“If we end up seeing more erosion in the so-called multichannel [cable and satellite TV] bundle, quality will win out,” he said, before noting that the Disney channel lineup could also eventually be sold straight to consumers.

“Technology is the most disruptive force that so-called traditional media … is facing,” Iger said. “[But] we decided to view technology as a friend, not a foe.”

The possibility of a standalone ESPN offering would be a significant get for consumers unhappy being tethered to traditional cable packages, as many current streaming services – with the exception of SlingTV – don’t carry ESPN channels.

Still, consumers’ desire for sports programing appears to be waning; a recent survey from Digitalsmiths found people didn’t really care much about ESPN. In fact, the sports channel ranked 20th when respondents were asked to pick which channels would make their ideal pay-TV bundle.

The survey isn’t the first inclination that customers – and cable companies – have stopped feeling the love for ESPN.

Back in April, Verizon FiOS announced it would offer so-called “skinny” TV bundles, where customers pay for only the barest core selection of channels and then add on extra bundles of ten or so channels each grouped according to theme. The base group of channels in the new FiOS plan does not include ESPN. Instead, the channel is included in a sports-themed add-on bundle, which Disney alleges is a breach of Verizon’s contract with the network.

Disney CEO Iger: ESPN could one day be sold direct [CNBC]

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