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

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