Disney's Iger: ESPN not going a la carte

Disney may have negotiated ample streaming rights for ESPN as part of its recent programming deals, including the just-signed $1.5 billion-a-season agreement with the NBA, but the media conglomerate has no plans to take ESPN a la carte anytime soon.

"We're well-positioned to go direct to the consumer if the marketplace demands it, but we don't feel a need to do that now," company CEO Bob Iger told investors during The Walt Disney Company's full-fiscal-year/Q4 earnings call Thursday.

"We don't feel a compelling need to take a product to market right now that is a challenge to multichannel bundle," Iger added. "There's no need to do it now that precipitates the downfall of that bundle."

Despite a soft ad market, cable networks generated a 5 percent spike in full-year revenue for Disney to $15.1 million. ESPN led the way, translating an industry-leading $6-plus average charge per subscriber into more than $8 billion in affiliate licensing fees.

It was recently speculated that in a purely a la carte universe, ESPN would have to drive its per-subscriber fees above $30 to pay its league licenses, winnowing its reach and vastly reducing its ad revenue in the process.

With that in mind, the company is partnering with pay-TV operator Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH), experimenting with a hybrid OTT model that targets young, online-video-loving pay-TV dissonance, but keeps the program bundling paradigm intact.

For more:
- read this Disney earnings release (PDF)
- read this Variety story

Related links:
NBA deal will raise average pay-TV bill 'couple dollars a month,' report says
NBA TV deal is 'latest example of reckless spending' by big networks, Mediacom VP says
Cord maybes: Pay-TV chases millennials with OTT services, but success is hardly guaranteed