Disney Confirms ESPN Streaming Service Without ESPN

A month ago, we told you about rumors that ESPN would be offering a new, standalone streaming service but that it wouldn’t include access to the flagship ESPN pay-TV channel. Now ESPN’s parent company Disney has confirmed that such a project is in the works, and that it may use the ESPN name but won’t look like the ESPN you know.

Yesterday, Disney announced a $1 billion investment in BAMTech, a streaming video company that was spun off from MLB Advanced Media.

Disney says BAMTech will be part of the launch of a “new ESPN-branded multi-sport subscription streaming service” that will be sold directly to consumers, meaning no pay-TV package required.

The upcoming service will include access to live regional, national and international sporting events, but Disney cautions that “Current content on ESPN’s linear networks will not appear on the new subscription streaming service.”

The service will use content that BAMTech already has the license to. The service has deals in place with pro baseball, and the National Hockey League (which also has an ownership stake in BAMTech). Additionally, there are sporting events — primarily college sports — that ESPN has the rights to air, but isn’t currently airing because it only has so many channels.

“The goal is not to take product off ESPN’s current channels but to use sports and product that ESPN has already licensed that’s not appearing on the channels,” explained Disney CEO Bob Iger to reporters. “And so we view this as a complementary service to what ESPN is already providing.”

There are no details yet on price or availability, though Disney says it hopes to have the service up and running later this year.

ESPN content has long been available through its own streaming services and through over-the-top pay-TV platforms like Sling TV. However, American consumers have not yet been able to buy the channel directly without having to also pay for some other pay-TV package. Judging by this latest announcement, Disney is in no rush to make the sports network available to cord-cutters anytime soon.