ESPN will launch stripped-down direct-to-consumer platform in 2016, analyst predicts

While a number of media analysts have said that a direct-to-consumer launch by ESPN is still years away, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Paul Sweeney said it could happen as soon as next year.

"We will see a direct-to-consumer offering, but it's going to look how ESPN looked 20 years ago," Sweeney said. "We'll see select sports. Maybe a little bit of basketball but not the full monty of ESPN's offerings."

Bob Iger, chief executive of ESPN parent the Walt Disney Company, told investors over the summer that an a la carte version of pay-TV's most expensive channel will eventually arrive, but probably not within a five-year time window. 

And media analysts including Richard Greenfield have crunched the economics of an ESPN direct-to-consumer launch, finding that the cannibalization to pay-TV revenue would more than offset any gains made be a streaming channel. 

Still, new damning evidence continues to leak in regarding ESPN's ability to sustain growth in the near-term future. Last month, a regulatory filing confirmed that the national sports programming conglomerate has lost about 7 million subscribers over the last two years, resulting in a $900 million direct hit to its bottom line.

Sweeney believes ESPN and Disney will seek to recapture viewers migrating outside the pay-TV ecosystem with a stripped-down offering that doesn't include the national sports network's most prized assets, such as NFL football.

For more:
- read this Bloomberg story

Related articles:
ESPN taking a $900M hit from reduced subscriber reach, analyst says
Disney beats quarterly forecast partly on success of ESPN
Report: ESPN mulling layoffs of 200-300 staffers amid shifting pay-TV landscape
Disney's Iger: ESPN will eventually go a la carte, but not in the next 5 years

Suggested Articles

YouTube TV’s price hike gives cable operators breathing room to run the next big TV race, which will be fought and won on the TV UX battleground.

Charter Communications said it will add five “Latino targeted TV networks” to its Spectrum TV lineup.

Among pay TV subscribers and broadband-only subscribers, YouTube and Netflix were among the favorite services featured in makeshift video bundles.