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Disney’s ESPN Wants to Be Lord of All Live Sporting Events

If you’re a sports enthusiast, you most likely have an ESPN subscription. But as the streaming wars heat up, you’ll need to purchase multiple subscriptions as different sports federations have multi-federation deals. But Disney’s ESPN wants to change all that. The media company wants ESPN to be the focal point of all live sporting events, even if it means collaborating with the competition.

CNBC first reported on March 2 that the sports network appears to be locked in negotiations with major sports leagues and media partners to make their dream come true.

Disney CEO Bob Iger has also reorganized leadership ranks as the company looks to grow ESPN toward profitability into a multi-platform organization with a global reach.

As of January 2023, ESPN+ has over 24.9 million subscribers. (ESPN app on a smartphone; photo credit – Shutterstock)

sporting events and the ESPN umbrella

Sports enthusiasts are struggling to figure out which streaming partner will air the game they want, as leagues strike lucrative deals with media partners who prioritize profit.

Disney’s ESPN has always strived to be the one-stop shop for all things esports. The company mission is: “To serve sports fans. At any time. Everywhere.” And it seems that the media service is trying to deliver on its promise to customers.

According to insiders ESPN is willing to work with other media partners to enable people accessing its website or app to stream live sporting events of their choice. If that involves striking a deal with global services like Amazon Prime or Apple TV, or local providers like Madison Square Garden’s MSG+, then so be it.

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The sports channel wants to launch a feature that will make that dream a reality and is currently in talks with major networks and sports leagues to gauge market reaction.

ESPN aims to achieve its goal of becoming the ultimate media hub for live sporting events.

sources told CNBC so many Regional sports owners have expressed enthusiasm for the project, as Disney’s reach means more viewers and eventually better sponsors.

In a media landscape dominated by streaming services, ESPN’s mission of bringing together regional, national and international events on one channel could be the feat that unites all sports fans. Industry insiders believe Disney’s ESPN wants to be the world leader in live sporting events.

ESPN-licensed content currently accounts for nearly 30% of all televised or streamed US sports.

Last month, Iger put rumors of a possible ESPN sale to one side and reiterated that it will remain part of Disney’s larger portfolio.

ESPN’s reorganization and future plans

Last month, CEO Bob Iger split Disney into three major divisions for ease of administration, one of which was making ESPN a separate division.

The company is focused on increasing profits and growing revenue through its streaming service.

On the 1st of March ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro informed colleagues about a slight restructuring at the top through an internal memo.

Content Chief Burke Magnus has been appointed President, Content. His responsibilities include studio shows, live events, news gathering, investigative journalism, original content/ESPN films, the talent office, audio, digital and social media.

After a short trip to the Disney Parks Division, Rosalyn Durant, who has been with the company for approximately 24 years, has been promoted to EVP, Programming & Acquisitions. Durant will be responsible for the rights business. She will also oversee ESPN+, ESPN International, Andscape and espnW. With ESPN’s NBA contract set to be renewed, Durant will be in charge of negotiating a new deal. The memo noted “Rosalyn’s leadership and strategic deal experience will benefit ESPN, particularly as the live sports rights market remains highly competitive.”

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Tina Thornton, Head of Content Operations & Creative Surround, will also lead the Production Operations Groupwhich switches back to ESPN.

That’s what the memo points out ESP is on the cusp of taking off and becoming “a larger, more complex, multi-platform organization.”

The recent change syndicate that sees ESPN quietly moving its cards to become the streaming service every sports enthusiast can count on.

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