ESPN’s standalone subscription streaming service, ESPN+, will launch on April 12th for $4.99 per month. Customers can also choose to pay the annual price of $49.99. The service lacks the core ESPN cable channel itself, but the company hopes a comprehensive mix of professional and college sports can make up for that and bring in customers anyway. There won’t be a separate app for ESPN+; it will be integrated into the main ESPN mobile app, which will move to a “completely redesigned and reimagined” look on the same day. Unfortunately, we don’t have any screenshots or a preview of what that will entail.
ESPN+ is being pitched as a major component of Disney’s direct-to-consumer streaming future. It arrives ahead of Disney’s own subscription service (set to debut in 2019), and the company is also expected to take majority ownership of Hulu when its colossal deal with Fox closes. Both ESPN+ and the Disney-branded service are by BAMTech, the streaming division that Disney bought a majority stake in last year.
ESPN+ will base its programming on four key areas. At the top of the heap is live sports, but your interest in the service will depend greatly on what it is you like to watch.
ESPN+ is a big part of Disney’s direct-to-consumer future
Subscribers will get one free MLB game each day. MLB.TV is available as an add-on for $24.99 per month. The same goes for the NHL: hockey fans can stream a free game each day during the 2018–2019 regular season and choose to add the full NHL.TV package to their ESPN+ subscription.
But if you’re a big fan of the major US professional sports leagues, ESPN+ still isn’t much of a replacement for cable and the traditional ESPN channels. In the most damning show of that, live NFL games are absent from the service altogether. You won’t find any Monday Night Football here.
Instead, ESPN is hoping that ESPN+ will attract fans of boxing, soccer, college sports, and international favorites like cricket and rugby. And there is a ton of that stuff. I’ve included it at the bottom of this post.
Aside from live events, ESPN+ will feature “high-quality original shows and films, exclusive studio programs, and an unmatched on-demand library.” The company says more specifics about what will be included in that vault will be released over the coming days and weeks.Keep in mind that you’ll still be dealing with the usual local blackout annoyances with a lot of the live events from the pro leagues. And again, ESPN+ doesn’t include the ESPN networks you might watch daily; those cable agreements still pull in way too much money for Disney and ESPN to truly give you standalone ESPN. So, if you only have ESPN+, you won’t be watching SportsCenter and you’ll be missing a lot of live, big-league content. But cable, satellite, and internet TV subscribers will still be able to get their traditional ESPN fix through the redesigned app, like always.
Here’s the long list of live sports that ESPN+ will really be based on. Is it enough for you to add yet another subscription to the pile?
BOXING – YEAR-ROUND SCHEDULE, INCLUDES EXCLUSIVE KHAN VS. LO GRECO BOUT: ESPN+ is a key part of ESPN’s multi-platform Top Rank Boxing on ESPN boxing agreement and will feature high-quality boxing throughout the year, including a selection of exclusive main event fights beginning with the April 21 Amir Khan vs. Phil Lo Greco bout in Liverpool, England. In addition, ESPN+ will feature undercard fights throughout the year from Top Rank on ESPN events, re-airs of all Top Rank on ESPN and PPV events and an unmatched library of legendary fights from the Top Rank and ESPN Big Fights archives.=
MLS – MORE THAN 250 GAMES: At launch, ESPN+ will include exclusive access for subscribers to the entire MLS out-of-market schedule, featuring more than 250 games,* through their subscription. Before launch, fans can access free MLS out-of-market games streaming live on MLSsoccer.com and the MLS App. Additionally, ESPN+ will be the exclusive local-market home for the Chicago Fire, bringing 27 Fire matches to fans in Chicago.
COLLEGE SPORTS – THOUSANDS OF GAMES AND EVENTS, MULTIPLE SPORTS, ACROSS NEARLY TWO DOZEN CONFERENCES: The ESPN+ lineup will be rich with thousands of live college sports events, including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf and more -- from over a dozen conferences across the country including the America East, ASun, Big South, Big West, Horizon, Ivy League, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Missouri Valley, NEC, Southern Conference, Southland, Summit League, Sun Belt, WAC and many more.
- SPRING SPORTS
College baseball and softball: ESPN+ will help college baseball and softball fans see more games than ever before, with hundreds more games from across the college ranks streamed live, exclusively on ESPN+.
Lacrosse, tennis, and track & field: ESPN+ will carry dozens of events from across conferences this spring.
- FALL SPORTS
College football: ESPN+ will include hundreds of college football games each season from across more than a dozen conferences in the FBS and FCS.
Men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, field hockey: ESPN+ will have hundreds of games this fall from soccer, volleyball and field hockey as the 2018-19 academic year gets underway.
- WINTER SPORTS
College basketball: College hoops fans will get hundreds of men’s and women’s games every season on ESPN+ from all across the college basketball landscape – from division one powerhouses to top mid-majors to the next tournament Cinderella and more.
College wrestling, swimming & diving, gymnastics, and ice hockey: Fans of winter Olympic sports will get hundreds of games from a variety of conference partners nationwide exclusively on ESPN+.
PGA TOUR LIVE GOLF – MORE THAN 100 DAYS OF COVERAGE FROM 31 PGA TOUR EVENTS: Golf fans will be able to follow the PGA TOUR throughout the year, with more than 100 days of live coverage from 31 PGA TOUR events, including THE PLAYERS Championship, the FedEx Cup Playoffs, AT&T Byron Nelson, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Travelers Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational and dozens more. Coverage will include Thursday, Friday and some Saturday and Sunday play during the events.
GRAND SLAM TENNIS – HUNDREDS OF TENNIS MATCHES FROM WIMBLEDON, US OPEN & AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Tennis fans will have access to more of the action than ever at three of the annual Grand Slam tennis events. With hundreds of men’s and women’s singles and doubles matches, ESPN+ will be the perfect complement for every passionate tennis fan.
RUGBY & CRICKET – HUNDREDS OF MATCHES FROM INTERNATIONAL RUGBY AND CRICKET: ESPN+ will serve rugby and cricket fans in the U.S. with more of their beloved sports, throughout the year. Rugby fans will get matches from SANZAAR (including Super Rugby, The Rugby Championship, the Lions Series, Mitre10 Cup, Currie Cup, Bledisloe Cup and other international matches), the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series, and 18 regular-season matches in the inaugural season of Major League Rugby, the new American professional rugby union league. Meanwhile, passionate cricket fans across the U.S. will get matches across Test, ODI and T20 formats from New Zealand Cricket and Cricket Ireland