FuboTV to Add ESPN to Streaming Lineup as Part of Deal With Disney

    • Both live and video on demand ESPN content will be available through FuboTV’s base $54.99 package.
    • FuboTV has relied on its catalog of news and entertainment options to keep viewers entertained during the pandemic.

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FuboTV has inked a multi-year distribution agreement with Disney Media Networks, a move that brings all of ESPN’s linear channels to the over-the-top streaming service for the first time.

While FuboTV has categorized itself as a sports-first OTT platform since its founding in 2015, the omittance of ESPN on its service was a noticeable difference between itself and competitors YouTube TV, Sling, and Hulu. 

Both live and video on demand ESPN content will be available this summer as part of FuboTV’s base $54.99 package. Additional ESPN-owned networks, including SEC Network, ACC Network, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, and ESPN Deportes, will be available through FuboTV’s add-on packages.

The new agreement also includes distribution rights for Disney Channel, Freeform, FX, and National Geographic, FuboTV said. Disney does not typically sell the rights to ESPN as a one-off purchase. Instead, those looking to take advantage of the sports network’s offerings are required to buy a larger bundle.

Even without live sports, average monthly television hours consumed by FuboTV subscribers are now up over 140 during the coronavirus pandemic compared to 129 hours in December, with the average subscriber watching as much as 8.5 hours per day, CEO David Gandler said during an investor presentation on June 17. 

FuboTV, like its competitors during the coronavirus pandemic, has relied on its catalog of news and entertainment options to keep viewers entertained. While most professional leagues in the U.S. are set to return next month, FuboTV is again broadcasting soccer from Europe’s top leagues. 

“Our base package offers consumers significant value, while consumers who want even more great sports and entertainment content can access it with our premium packages,” said Ben Grad, head of content strategy and acquisition at FuboTV, in a statement. “As live sports return, but without spectators, streaming games at home will be even more important than ever.”

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Following the additions of both NHL Network and MLB Network in March, Grad told Front Office Sports that FuboTV weighs both how often specific content is being viewed and distribution costs to determine what other rights the company needs to acquire. Arguably the most significant factor is how much new rights might drive further customer acquisition. 

“We have discussions with other parties in the market about what they charge for their content and make determinations and estimates about how much our customers would watch that,” he said.

And yet, FuboTV knows it cannot own the rights to everything. 

“I would say it does not make sense for any new entry like us that is trying to compete at our price point to take all of the content available on cable because then we could not be able to provide much, if any, discounts,” Grad said. “We are not looking to replicate the cable model.”