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Amazon Joins Growing List Of Suitors In Talks With Disney About ESPN

  • Streaming giant is latest to discuss potential partnership with Disney-owned network
  • Deal would center on aiding development of full, direct-to-consumer version of ESPN
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Disney CEO Bob Iger must have known his move to explore potential equity partners for ESPN would yield interest from many of the biggest entities in sports, media, and entertainment — and now, that search could pay off big.

Following previously reported interest from the NFL, NBA, MLB, as well as telecommunications giant Verizon, Amazon is now the latest to discuss acquiring a minority stake in ESPN, according to The Information.

Amazon’s discussions, like those of Verizon, have been centered on aiding in the development of a full, direct-to-consumer version of ESPN, something Iger said recently is “not a matter of if, but when.”

Amazon’s entry as a potential partner is notable, as the company has made no secret of its desire to add more sports content to join flagship streaming properties such as the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football.” 

The company is also currently in the mix for a NASCAR rights package. And like with Verizon, Amazon is a business partner of ESPN, distributing its content through Prime Video and Amazon Fire TV. 

The latest talks, however, remain preliminary.

Last month, Iger said Disney is open to selling part of ESPN to a strategic partner, as the company is “dealing head-on with some of our biggest challenges,” including accelerating decline in linear reach.

More recently, ESPN has also seen subscriber growth for ESPN+ stall, at least temporarily. Iger also said the company is “not necessarily looking for a cash infusion” in the equity sale talks, but rather “partners that are going to help ESPN transition to a [direct-to-consumer] model. That can come in the form of content, or distribution and marketing support, or both.”

High Price Point

The network is also considering charging between $20 and $35 per month for the direct-to-consumer version. Such a price would easily stand among the highest in all of sports streaming, rivaling and perhaps surpassing the comparable $29.99 for direct-to-consumer versions of RSNs such as NESN and MSG.

ESPN is also the most expensive channel among basic cable networks.

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