The Walt Disney Company has announced it has agreed to acquire majority ownership of BAMTech, and will launch its ESPN-branded multisport video streaming service in the US early 2018, followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019.
Disney will pay US$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.
Robert Iger, chairman and CEO The Walt Disney Company, said: “This acquisition and the launch of our direct-to-consumer services mark an entirely new growth strategy for the Company, one that takes advantage of the incredible opportunity that changing technology provides us to leverage the strength of our great brands.”
The ESPN-branded multisport service will offer an 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 US service will be accessed through an enhanced version of the current ESPN app.
The new Disney-branded service will become the exclusive home in the US for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of 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 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.