Disney-owned ESPN has held preliminary talks to make its programming available on internet television services like the ones said to be under development by Apple, Google, Intel, and Sony. In an interview with Bloomberg, ESPN president John Skipper said the sports network is interested in selling its entire package of channels to a web-based television service, including its main channel, ESPN2, and ESPN News.
Winning ESPN would be a coup for any of the internet TV services now under development. Live sporting events are a major reason many cable subscribers have resisted cutting the cord, and ESPN commands the highest subscriber fees of any cable channel. More than 98 million people subscribe to the channel, according to Disney's latest annual report.
ESPN has made aggressive moves to put its content online
The news comes as tech giants are racing to sign up programmers to deliver their shows over the internet. Last week, Sony reportedly signed a deal for internet TV with Viacom, the first deal of its kind to be publicly revealed. Apple recently made ESPN available on Apple TV, though the offer only applies to current cable subscribers. And ESPN has made aggressive moves to put its content online, to the point of offering to subsidize the data plans of anyone streaming its content on a mobile device.
ESPN is still early in its talks, and it's unclear how many other programmers would want to follow its lead. But if the deal comes to fruition, the future of television could be on its way to arriving.