In a bid to expand its ESPN+ streaming service, the US sports broadcaster has set the wheels in motion in acquiring NFL, NBA and MLB games to its offering.
ESPN is projected to launch a direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming service in 2025 by combining its cable network TV show and ESPN+ in a major overhaul that would fall in line with the rapid growth of online streaming over the last several years.
Reported interest between ESPN, the NFL and the NBA has surfaced in a deal that could see NFL+, which offers in-market games, NFL Redzone and NBA League Pass, which offers out-of-market games, to the newly shaped ESPN streaming service.
Disney-owned ESPN has also been in talks with the MLB about gaining rights to local games as local teams and Diamond Sports Group, the RSN operator that airs local MLB games, are currently embroiled in bankruptcy problems.
This development falls in line with a report that surfaced last July when Disney CEO Bob Iger and ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro met the top three major US sports leagues to discuss the DTC streaming platform and potential ownership in it.
This was in part due to Disney’s ambition to overhaul its approach to sports broadcasting amid mass layoffs at ESPN during the Summer.
The preliminary talks with the NFL, NBA and MLB ranged from stake ownerships, investment structures and a multitude of partnership opportunities.
If ESPN were to land NFL, NBA and MLB games on its new DTC service it would lay down its marker as one of the more valuable US sports streaming services in the US, as very few if not any streaming service like it holds rights to games in all three major leagues.
Furthermore, ESPN+ also broadcasts out-of-market games in the NHL and is reportedly interested in adding more local games to its offering due to similar local network issues MLB teams are facing.