Disney CEO: Full ESPN channel will eventually go direct-to-consumer

Disney CEO Bob Iger

Disney is planning to launch a direct-to-consumer ESPN streaming video service but it won’t be the full linear ESPN channel, at least not yet.

During today’s earnings call, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that the full ESPN channel will eventually be available as a direct-to-consumer service. But as of right now, Disney is still confident in how ESPN is performing and doesn’t feel it’s necessary to go direct-to-consumer just yet. Also, Iger said that current structuring for sports rights would make it difficult to launch a full ESPN channel experience as a direct-to-consumer service.

After the big NBA rights deal, ESPN and Disney doesn’t have any big sports rights renewals coming up in the next five years or so.

He said the ESPN direct-to-consumer service due before the end of the year could give consumers the opportunity to tailor the service based on what sports they want to pay for and watch.

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While it’s still up for debate at Disney just how or when ESPN could branch out on its own as a streaming service, Iger sounds confident that ESPN and its large stable of live sports rights is still a vital piece of the larger programming bundle for pay-TV providers.

In fact, Iger went so far as to blast the notion of a $10 nonsports bundle, pitched again earlier today by Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

“I don’t know how many channels you could fit in a $10 bundle but I’d imagine that they aren’t channels anyone would find attractive,” Iger said.

Zaslav said today that consumers will demand a lower-cost option at some point in response to the large and relatively expensive channel bundles – which he called “overstuff turkeys” – available from both MVPDs and virtual MVPDs.