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Disney Shifting Focus To Digital Products, What Does It Mean For ESPN?

“ESPN+ costs $5.99 per month and watching Watch ESPN content requires a cable or satellite subscription.”

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Disney CEO Bob Chapek was on CNBC on Monday to talk about the company’s future business plans. Earlier in the day, the company had issued a press release saying that it was restrutcturing to make its direct-to-consumer digital products its focus.

“We believe we’ve got the opportunity to build upon the success of Disney+, which by almost any measure has been far and above anybody’s expectations,” he told CNBC.

Chapek would not give any subscriber numbers or future projections for the company’s digital products. He did say that Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu all have exceeded the company’s expectations and continue to do so each month.

Covid-19 has taken a serious bite out of other divisions in the Walt Disney Company this year. Its global theme park business has been in the toilet. Multiple feature films have been scrapped, delayed, or in some cases, forced to a pay-per-view model on Disney+, which lead to significantly lower revenues than initially projected. The streaming businesses are thriving though.

So what does this mean for ESPN and the sports world? Outkick’s Ryan Glasspiegal writes that the effect may not be obvious right away, but the model for live sports will eventually evolve.

“An emphasis on direct-to-consumer streaming will inherently mean further movement away from their previous modes of distributing movies through theaters. It will probably happen a little slower, but sports will also continue to migrate away from traditional TV networks.”

All cable networks have been hit hard by cord-cutting, which isn’t a new phenomenon, but the ESPN family of networks’ subscriber fees are the highest in the industry, meaning that fewer cable subscribers hits that network harder than any other. With 20 million fewer subscribers than the network had just ten years ago, it is missing out on about $20 million in revenue each month that it used to count on.

News broke last week that ESPN is bracing for a major round of layoffs. It seems inevitable given that revenue is down and recent stories about negotiations with the NFL and Major League Baseball prove that rights fees for live sports are not following suit.

So what does that mean for the future of the cable network? It is hard to say exactly. ESPN+ has slowly increased its offerings both in terms of live sports and original content. The service also has a pay-per-view deal in place with the UFC. Between it and the Watch ESPN offerings through ESPN.com, it isn’t impossible to think that the network could become a completely digital product.

In order for that to be successful, ESPN will have to figure out how to package and sell a subscription. ESPN+ costs $5.99 per month and watching Watch ESPN content requires a cable or satellite subscription.

Figuring out a fully digital pricing model is something ESPN should probably figure out how to do sooner rather than later anyway. We may be a few years away from leagues selling exclusive video rights to digital companies, but Amazon already has deals with Thursday Night Football and the New York Yankees amongst others. Apple is reportedly kicking the tires on PAC-12 football. We are far enough down the road that exclusive rights deals going to tech companies instead of television networks does not seem absurd.

Sports TV News

Notre Dame AD: NBC Deal With Big Ten is “Perfect” For Irish

“But it’s also perfect for Notre Dame,” Swarbrick said.

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Jack Swarbrick

While not official, there has been strong reporting that the Big Ten conference has decided which broadcast entities would be awarded media rights for their football and basketball games. One of those partners appears to be NBC who also has a partnership with Notre Dame thru 2025.

On Wedneday, Notre Dame’s Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick held a live chat for the school’s alumni association. On that chat, the subject of the recent Big Ten media rights deal came up. He praised Commissioner Kevin Warren and called the Big Ten’s strategy brilliant and added that it’s great for college football because it gives networks inventory and now an incentive to produce around it. He also said when the value of the deals was announced, it’d be “pretty amazing” for the conference.

He then discussed how it fit with Notre Dame’s outlook on television media rights.

“But it’s also perfect for Notre Dame,” Swarbrick said. “We need NBC to have more college football to more effectively promote our games and to talk about our games and to have NBC be seen in that light. So that was great for us that they got a big piece of this.”

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Sports TV News

Louis Riddick Signs Contract Extension With ESPN

He will be on the network’s Thursday night college football package.

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Football analyst Louis Riddick has signed a new extension to continue his career with ESPN.

The network made the announcement on Wednesday when announcing their broadcast teams for the 2022 college football season. In that release, it was revealed that Riddick would be returning to the college football booth for the first time since 2019.

He will be on the network’s Thursday night college football package and be partnered with play-by-play commentator Matt Barrie and Harry Lyles Jr.

It was announced earlier this summer that Riddick would also be in the booth for ESPN’s preseason NFL action. He’ll also be in the booth for three weeks that ESPN has multiple games in that week.

Riddick’s first college football game assignment will be the Backyard Brawl game between West Virginia and Pittsburgh and the latter has already noted their excitement.

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Sports TV News

ESPN Adds Aaron Murray, Re-Signs Beth Mowins For College Football Coverage

Mowins provides play-by-play on college basketball and softball, and has been the Voice of the Women’s College World Series for more than two decades.

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Aaron Murray, Beth Mowins

ESPN announced the hiring of Aaron Murray to its analyst roster.

Murray, a former quarterback at Georgia and most recently an analyst with CBS Sports Network, will call a handful of games on the SEC Network. He’ll also appear on some of the network’s studio programming.

ESPN also announced the re-signing of play-by-play commentator Beth Mowins to a multi-year deal. In addition to football, Mowins provides play-by-play on college basketball and softball, and has been the Voice of the Women’s College World Series for more than two decades.

ESPN announced the broadcast crews for its college football coverage as well.

Game/NetworkCommentators
ABC Saturday Night FootballChris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Holly Rowe
ESPN Saturday Night PrimetimeSean McDonough, Todd Blackledge, Molly McGrath
ESPN and ABC SaturdayJoe Tessitore, Greg McElroy, Katie George
ESPN and ABC SaturdayMark Jones, Robert Griffin III, Quint Kessenich
ESPN and ABC SaturdayDave Pasch, Dusty Dvoracek, Tom Luginbill
ESPN and ABC SaturdayBob Wischusen, Dan Orlovsky, Kris Budden
ESPN and ABC SaturdayDave Flemming, Rod Gilmore, Tiffany Blackmon
ESPN and ESPN2 SaturdayAnish Shroff, Brock Osweiler, Taylor McGregor
ESPN and ESPN2 SaturdayBeth Mowins, Kirk Morrison, Stormy Buonantony
ESPN ThursdayMatt Barrie, Louis Riddick, Harry Lyles Jr.
ESPN and ESPN2 FridayRoy Philpott, Andre Ware, Paul Carcaterra
ESPN and ESPN2 SaturdayBrian Custer, Dustin Fox, Lauren Sisler
SEC Saturday NightTom Hart, Jordan Rodgers, Cole Cubelic
ACC Network PrimetimeDave O’Brien, Tim Hasselbeck, Kelsey Riggs
SEC NetworkDave Neal, Deuce McAllister, Andraya Carter
SEC NetworkTaylor Zarzour, Matt Stinchcomb, Alyssa Lang
ACC NetworkWes Durham, Roddy Jones, Taylor Davis
ACC NetworkChris Cotter, Mark Herzlich, Lericia Harris
ESPN2 and ESPNU SaturdayClay Matvick, Rocky Boiman, Dawn Davenport
ESPN2 and ESPNU SaturdayKevin Brown, Hutson Mason
ESPN2 and ESPNU SaturdayJohn Schriffen, Rene Ingoglia
ESPN2 and ESPNU SaturdayDrew Carter, TBD
ESPN2 and ESPNU SaturdayConnor Onion, Craig Haubert
Longhorn NetworkLowell Galindo, Sam Acho, Alex Chappell
ESPNU Thursday – HBCUTiffany Greene, Jay Walker
ESPN Radio Marc Kestecher, Kelly Stouffer, Ian FitzsimmonsMike Couzens, Max Starks

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