(via comingsoon.net) The Walt Disney Company today announced that it has agreed to acquire majority ownership of BAMTech, LLC and will launch its ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018, followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019.
Under terms of the transaction, Disney will pay $1.58 billion to acquire an additional 42% stake in BAMTech—a global leader in direct-to-consumer streaming technology and marketing services, data analytics, and commerce management—from MLBAM, the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball. Disney previously acquired a 33% stake in BAMTech under an agreement that included an option to acquire a majority stake over several years, and today’s announcement marks an acceleration of that timetable for controlling ownership.
The ESPN-branded multi-sport service will offer a robust array of sports programming, featuring approximately 10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year, including Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, Grand Slam tennis, and college sports. Individual sport packages will also be available for purchase, including MLB.TV, NHL.TV and MLS Live.
The new service will be accessed through an enhanced version of the current ESPN app. In addition to the multi-sport service, the ESPN app will include the news, highlights, and scores that fans enjoy today. Consumers who are pay TV subscribers will also be able to access the ESPN television networks in the same app on an authenticated basis. For many sports fans, this app will become the premier digital destination for all their sports content.
The new Disney-branded service will become the exclusive home in the U.S. for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of the newest live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar, beginning with the 2019 theatrical slate, which includes Toy Story 4, the sequel to Frozen, and The Lion King from Disney live-action, along with other highly-anticipated movies. Disney will also make a significant investment in an annual slate of original movies, TV shows, short-form content and other Disney-branded exclusives for the service. Additionally, the service will feature a vast collection of library content, including Disney and Pixar movies and Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD television programming.
With this strategic shift, Disney will end its distribution agreement with Netflix for subscription streaming of new releases, beginning with the 2019 calendar year theatrical slate. Disney has not determined what will happen with Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios titles yet – they’ll announce this at a later date, though they might be getting their own separate services.
Plans are for the Disney and ESPN streaming services to be available for purchase directly from Disney and ESPN, in app stores, and from authorized MVPDs.