Apple Reportedly an Ideal Partner to Distribute ESPN, But Deal Unlikely

Apple is one of several tech companies on Disney's radar as the media giant looks for a strategic partner to help expand distribution of ESPN, according to the New York Post. However, the report does not indicate if Disney has actually held discussions with Apple, and there are a few reasons why a sports partnership between the companies is unlikely.

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First, the report says that the idea of an ESPN app being preloaded on the iPhone would be appealing to Disney, but Apple has not offered a built-in iPhone app for a third-party brand since YouTube was removed as a pre-installed app on iOS 6 in 2012.

Second, ESPN is currently only available through cable and satellite TV packages, which does not make it a fit to be streamed through the Apple TV app. The report claims that Disney is looking to make the sports network available on an à-la-carte basis as early as 2025, but that timeframe likely rules out any imminent partnership.

Apple has instead been focusing on acquiring global rights to live sports content to stream through the Apple TV app and on its Apple TV+ streaming service. For example, Apple reached a 10-year partnership with MLS to stream all matches worldwide.

Apple and Disney already have a close relationship, with Disney CEO Bob Iger having appeared on stage at WWDC 2023 to announce that Disney+ will be available on Apple's Vision Pro headset at launch. Iger also served on Apple's board of directors from 2011 to 2019, and he was friends with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. As of now, however, any partnership between the two companies involving ESPN appears unlikely.

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Top Rated Comments

icanhazmac Avatar
11 months ago
Hopefully this never happens. Not being forced to finance ESPN or its "talent", among many other channels, is one of the reasons I "cut the cord".
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HobeSoundDarryl Avatar
11 months ago
Disney is looking for massive cash- possibly selling off ABC and related traditional television entities and possibly ESPN too.

Apple seems to value third party content about like Apple fans... thus any such deals just about always go to the other bidders. See the long list of things that Apple was rumored to be in play to potentially get... and then who actually got it. I'll get you started: Thursday Night Football, NFL-ST, the huge MGM content library, the huge WB content library, 20th Century Fox, various AAA gaming houses that have been acquired last few years, etc.

It's just about always the same story: Apple is rumored to be in the running, more such rumors, some kind of issue seems to be popping up that may take Apple out of the running, other player announces they got the content/deal/partnership. Fans gush with excitement about the content when it is implied Apple may get it and then find tremendous fault with the content when it looks like Apple won't be getting it... and even more so after it is lost.

If there is anything to this, I suspect the rumors will amp up about it, then there will be some hitch, and then someone else will announce getting it instead. We just saw this play out with NFL Sunday Ticket earlier this year.

Content/business owners are just like Apple: they want maximum revenue & profit for what they offer. Others tend to construct more attractive win:win deals that draw them. Most notably: others show them the money.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Johnny907 Avatar
11 months ago
Disney doesn't want a partner for ESPN, it wants a buyer. Whole network has done nothing but lose value since they purchased it. Who knew a sports network that focused on politics and social commentary more than, ya know, SPORTS, wouldn't go over well with longtime subscribers.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cocky jeremy Avatar
11 months ago
Apple should just buy ESPN and all related sports (ESPN2, SEC Network, Big Ten Network, etc) networks. It would be huge for their tv service.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
eilavid Avatar
11 months ago
Pre-installed ESPN app would not fly with regulators at all. Apple is already under a lot of scrutiny in the EU
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Powerguru Avatar
11 months ago
I trust Disney to scr..w this up too just like their new movies strategy.

Disney is running towards a cliff at a high speed. Fall is near. Get your ?. Another American icon is near its end. Missteps by its leaders by giving it into its employees rather than customers.

Disney will be forced to sell ESPN to Apple/Google/Amazon/ in 7-9 years. You heard it here first. ?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)