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disneyESPN wants to be the hub for all live sports, even for its competitors.
The sports network has been in conversations with major sports leagues and media partners about launching a feature on ESPN.com and its free ESPN app that will connect users directly to where a live sports event is being broadcast, according to people familiar with the matter.
This could include national or global streaming services, such as Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video, or a regional sports service such as by Sinclair Bally Sports+ or Madison Square Garden Entertainment MSG+.
Actual media partners have yet to be determined, and there is no timeline on when such a feature will launch, said the people, who asked not to be named as the discussions are private. Still, ESPN approached the idea with major sports leagues and media companies to gauge their enthusiasm, the people said.
Although the business terms of the concept may still change, ESPN considered a model in which there would be a reduction in subscription revenue from a user who signed up for a streaming service through the ESPN app or website. , said two of the people. If a customer is already subscribed to a given service, ESPN would not collect any money and would simply provide the link as a courtesy, people familiar with the matter said.
ESPN could also alert users to games airing on linear TV, cementing its new role as a TV guide to live sports, the people said.
A spokesperson for ESPN declined to comment.
Several regional sports network owners have expressed particular optimism about the idea as they attempt to boost subscription revenue as leagues question the industry’s business prospects in an ecosystem dominated by streaming. , said two of the people. CNBC previously reported that Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group was considering bankruptcy restructuring after miss a $140 million debt repayment. Warner Bros. Discovery has alerted the leagues that it plans to exit the RSN business altogether, according to the Wall Street Journal.
It has become increasingly difficult for consumers to determine how to find a given game as rights packages have been cut by sports leagues seeking to maximize distribution fees between streaming partners. A New York Yankees game for a New York area fan could air on linear TV on YES Network, ESPN or Discovery of Warner Bros.‘s TBS, or it could stream on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ or NBCUniversal’s Peacock.
ESPN wants to use its self-proclaimed “world leader in sports” status to become the de facto first stop for all consumers looking for where to watch live sports, the people said. Currently, ESPN only connects users to ESPN licensed content. That’s nearly 30% of all US sports televised or streamed, according to people familiar with the matter.
ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro
Steve Zak Photography | MovieMagic | Getty Images
ESPN’s willingness to promote other streaming services suggests a strategic shift in the streaming wars. Disney is less focused on getting streaming subscribers — and eyeballs — at all costs. Company managers have stressed that they wanted investors to prioritize revenue and profits rather than subscriber growth, a trend pioneered by other media companies, including netflix And Discovery of Warner Bros.
Media companies have also started trading in parallel as streaming growth has slowed. This limits competitive pressures and promotes collaboration. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are also emphasizing licensing content For competing streaming services to increase revenue rather than keeping content exclusive.
Bob Iger, CEO of Disney announcement a company-wide reorganization last month that made ESPN a stand-alone division, led by ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro. The move could bring ESPN’s finances under closer scrutiny in earnings calls. Pitaro announced Wednesday he streamlines management under him to reduce his number of direct reports.
While activist investor Dan Loeb last year pushed for disney to make or sell ESPN, Iger said there are no plans for that.
Disclosure: Comcast’s NBCUniversal is CNBC’s parent company.
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