by Ray Keating
May 25, 2021
Disney’s push in expanding the live sports line-up on its ESPN+ streaming service, and ESPN and ABC cable/broadcast channels, has been impressive in recent months. And the company is in the conversation, as has been widely reported and we at DisneyBizJournal have been predicting, to grab NFL Sunday Ticket from DirecTV, where it’s been for 25-plus years.
Disney and Baseball
The most recent news regarding live sports came on May 13, with Disney announcing that its ESPN agreement with Major League Baseball would be extended, with a new deal covering 2022 through 2028.
ESPN will televise 30 regular-season games annually, including 25 editions of Sunday Night Baseball, and five additional games, including the national Opening Night telecast. ESPN will continue to exclusively carry the Home Run Derby and will be able to simulcast all ESPN and ABC games on ESPN+.
In addition, if the MLB Wild Card Series is expanded, ESPN will exclusively televise all of it starting in 2022. However, if the current Wild Card format stays, then ESPN will exclusively televise one of the two MLB Wild Card Games and receive eight additional exclusive regular-season games each year.
For good measure, ESPN+ not only will continue streaming a Major League Baseball game nearly every day of the season, but add new MLB content.
While this MLB deal is a reduction of regular season games on ESPN – from 90 games per season to 30 (or 38) – the relationship remains extensive between Disney and MLB. And as Chris Katje at Benzinga noted, “The new deal lowers ESPN’s annual fees from $700 million to $550 million while still keeping the best content.”
Disney and Football
This MLB agreement comes on top of the March 2021 deal with the NFL that runs through 2033. As DisneyBizJournal reported, Disney picked up two Super Bowls, and “ESPN keeps Monday Night Football, while adding six games each season, featuring three Monday night doubleheaders (with a game on ESPN followed by a game on ABC), a late-season Saturday doubleheader, and a Sunday morning game on ESPN+. Also, Monday Night Football will gain a ‘flex’ option starting in week 12 of the season to ensure better games. And ESPN will continue to air the NFL draft.”
Disney and Hockey
Also in March, Disney announced an extensive, seven-year deal with the NHL, running from the 2021-22 season through the 2027-28 season. As DisneyBizJournal noted, the deal includes the NHL.TV out-of-market subscription service moving exclusively to streaming as part of an ESPN+ subscription; the Stanley Cup finals on ABC in four of the seven years; half of the NHL playoff games on ABC and ESPN each year; and 25 NHL games exclusively on ESPN.
Disney and Golf
March also saw the announcement that ESPN+ would be the streaming home of PGA TOUR LIVE starting in 2022 and running through 2030. According to ESPN, that will cover “36 tournaments a year, including a full four days of coverage at 28 events with four simultaneous live feeds each day. PGA TOUR LIVE on ESPN+ will also feature on-demand replays of PGA TOUR events, original golf programs, edited speed round recaps and more.”
Disney and Basketball
And finally, Disney is in the midst of a television deal with the NBA that it splits with TNT. That agreement expires after the 2024-25 season.
If Disney winds up arriving at a deal with the NFL for Sunday Ticket, ESPN+, along with ESPN, will become the clear live sports powerhouse. Expect already strong growth in ESPN+ subscriptions to accelerate.
Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels and assorted nonfiction books. Have Ray Keating speak your group, business, school, church, or organization. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed here are his own – after all, no one else should be held responsible for this stuff, right?
Keating has two new books out. Vatican Shadows: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel is the 13ththriller/mystery in the Pastor Stephen Grant series. Get the paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon, or signed books at www.raykeatingonline.com. Past Lives: A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story is the 14th book in the series. Get the paperback or Kindle edition at Amazon, or signed book at www.raykeatingonline.com. And pre-order the 15th book in the series What’s Lost? A Pastor Stephen Grant Short Story.
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You also can order his book Behind Enemy Lines: Conservative Communiques from Left-Wing New York from Amazon or signed books at RayKeatingOnline.com. His other recent nonfiction book is Free Trade Rocks! 10 Points on International Trade Everyone Should Know.
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