The Walt Disney Company has announced it is acquiring a minority 33 percent stake in BAMTech, a video streaming company previously formed by Major League Baseball, for $1 billion. Disney has the option to acquire majority ownership of BAMTech in the coming years.
Disney said it will collaborate with BAMTech to launch and distribute a new ESPN-branded multi-sport subscription streaming service in the future. The direct-to-consumer service will feature content provided by both BAMTech and ESPN, and include live regional, national, and international sporting events. The deal will also support streaming video and digital products from ABC and Disney, and future digital initiatives.
Disney currently offers a free video streaming service called WatchESPN, but a cable or satellite TV subscription is required for authentication. The new multi-sport service would presumably allow cord-cutters to watch live games and other sporting events on the web, smartphones, and tablets for a set cost per month. ESPN broadcasts MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS, NCAA sports, and more.
A big caveat: current content on ESPN's networks such as SportsCenter and Monday Night Football will not be streamed. The service will feature sports content not appearing on ESPN channels, including a mixture of MLB and NHL games.
Apple's much rumored streaming TV service was originally expected to include content from Disney properties, but the plans were postponed late last year. Apple has a close relationship with Disney, which made the late Steve Jobs its biggest shareholder upon acquiring Pixar in 2006. Disney CEO and chairman Bob Iger has also held a seat on Apple's board of directors since 2011.