What Disney, ESPN+ and Hulu means for Sports Television


You should know four important things in 2018 when it comes to live sports television broadcasting.


Disney owns a 30% stake in Hulu 

When Disney and Fox came to a $66 billion dollar agreement (including a portion of Fox’s debt), it included Fox’s 30% ownership stake in the Hulu platform.  If the United States Department of Justice approves the Disney-Fox deal, Disney, already with its own 30% ownership stake, would own a 60% majority of the Hulu platform. Is it any surprise Hulu recently jumped into the live sports broadcasting space by purchasing the rights to some NHL and NBA playoff games? It is possible Hulu’s owners are testing the market for live sports broadcasts in anticipation of having one full-fledged owner who could conceivably make a play to buyout NBCUniversal from its 30% ownership share to control the platform all together.

Disney owns ESPN+

ESPN+ launched on April 12, 2018, while the app was conceived with the idea to move to over-the-top/direct-to-consumer digital consumption. Consider this: Disney is likely to have two platforms in the sports market (Hulu and ESPN+) by 2019. Disney may now be (or may become) the largest industry player in content creation and distribution in the entertainment and sports space. Remember, Disney also owns ABC.

Disney has another OTT platform in the works 

Disney’s third platform, said to be a one-stop-shop for Disney movies and the Fox library it recently purchased, could potentially be another landing spot for live sports broadcasts or sports replay content. Interestingly, an untapped market in the content distribution space has been on replays. Sports enthusiasts love watching replays and until now, such games have been limited to YouTube and nonlinear television.

Netflix has not entered the sports space, but Tencent has

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Netflix may be the eighth largest media conglomerate with a market cap of $146 billion, $8 billion shy of both Disney and Comcast. However, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has said Netflix’s current business model does not lend itself to entering live sports broadcasting and that the company has no plans to follow the Amazon, Hulu or Facebook Live pack. On the other hand, internationally, Netflix has grown its subscribers, while companies like the Chinese-owned Tencent has brokered a deal with the NBA to broadcast games.

Going forward, the international space should not be overlooked as technology grows and allows content to be more accessible to cities and consumers across the globe. The global audience already rivals and sometimes beats American audiences for movies. We can be sure the world’s largest distribution companies, in both entertainment and sports content, will look to capitalize on the market trend to go over-the-top and global.

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