Tuesday December 5, 2023

Disney Expanding Sports Reach Beyond ESPN

  • Disney could use its unique blend of sports rights, media properties and distribution channels to bring in streaming subscribers.
  • The company now has media rights for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, Wimbledon, PGA Tour, and LaLiga.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports/Design: Alex Brooks
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Disney’s sports empire is growing, and so are the possibilities for how it will combine its unique package of rights and channels. 

The media giant’s sports properties will spread beyond ESPN, according to Variety, with ESPN+, ABC, and Hulu playing an increasingly prominent role.

ABC will start airing “Sunday Night Baseball” games in August. With the NHL coming back to ESPN on a seven-year, $2.8 billion deal, some games will be available on Hulu.

After securing a 12-year extension with Wimbledon on July 9 that includes broadcasts on ABC and ESPN+, Disney’s sports media rights cover the landscape:

  • NFL games from 2023-2033 for $2.7 billion per season
  • MLB games from 2022-2028 for $4 billion
  • NBA games through 2024 at around $1 billion per season
  • LaLiga matches from 2021-2028 for $1.4 billion
  • PGA Tour rights, beginning in 2022

The biggest chance to showcase the Mouse’s reach will come in 2026, when Disney airs the Super Bowl. The conglomerate could broadcast the game on multiple platforms, and even leverage properties like Star Wars and the Marvel Comics Universe to augment coverage on certain channels.

The shift is emblematic of the broader one from cable to streaming. ESPN and ESPN2 are seeing subscriber declines, while 40% of Disney’s recent upfront ad commitments came from its streaming services, namely Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu.

Disney+ had over 103 million subscribers as of April 3. Hulu had 41.6 million and ESPN+ had 13.8 million.

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