Disney is set to roll out an ESPN-branded “multi-sport” streaming service after it announced a $1bn investment in streaming technology unit BAM Tech, created by Major League Baseball.
ESPN has lost over 7m subscribers since 2013, 1.5m of which was lost from February to the end of May this year, according to 2016 Nielsen data.
Through the new deal Disney is hoping to secure a raft of new users, creating a service that will be “direct to consumer” meaning users will be able to circumvent cable and satellite fees to watch the stream.
Disney said the service - which is planned for launch by the end of 2016 - will offer content from BAMTech and ESPN, including live regional, national and international sporting events. Content on ESPN’s linear networks will not be part of the service.
"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," Disney chief executive Bob Iger said.
The $1bn investment means Disney now has a 33 per cent stake in BAM Tech. The deal allows Disney to eventually acquire majority ownership of BAM Tech in the coming years should this prove a worthwhile investment.
"Our investment in BAMTech gives us the technology infrastructure we need to quickly scale and monetize our streaming capabilities at ESPN and across our company," Iger said. "We look forward to working closely with BAMTech as we explore new ways to deliver the unmatched content of The Walt Disney Company across a variety of platforms."
BAMTech, now reportedly valued at around $3bn, is known for powering streaming services including MLB.tv, Time Warner’s HBO Now, WWE Network, among others. As part of the deal, BAMTech was spun off from MLB’s broader digital business, MLB Advanced Media