ESPN's streaming service tops 2M subscribers: Disney CEO Bob Iger

By Media & AdvertisingFOXBusiness

Is Disney too late to the streaming party?

Barron's Senior Editor Jack Hough and Capital Wave Strategist Shah Gilani on Disney's plans to compete against Netflix in streaming.

Disney CEO Bob Iger said Tuesday that ESPN+, the cable sports network’s subscription streaming service and a key part of its growth strategy, has amassed more than 2 million subscribers less than one year after its launch.

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The streaming service’s subscriber base has roughly doubled since last September, when ESPN last disclosed specifics. ESPN+ features a slate of live sports programming and original content that isn’t available on ESPN’s flagship cable networks, including exclusive UFC events, MLB games, documentaries and other original series.

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Disney has emphasized the development of its own original streaming service as it looks to compete with industry giant Netflix and stave off the effects of the cord-cutting trend that has weighed on its bottom line. ESPN, once one of Disney’s most profitable businesses, has lost millions of subscribers in recent years.

Iger said in a statement that Disney’s growing direct-to-consumer business “is our top priority.”

ESPN+ costs $4.99 per month, or $49.99 for an annual membership. Disney’s other branded streaming service, named Disney+, will launch later this year and feature content from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and other owned properties.

Disney, which now breaks out its direct-to-consumer business on its quarterly earnings report, said it incurred an operating loss of $136 million in the first quarter due to investments in the two streaming services. The company is also set to hold a majority stake in the Hulu streaming service when its $71 billion deal with 21st Century Fox, the parent company of FOX Business, closes early this year.

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Disney shares were down slightly in trading Wednesday, even as the company topped expectations for quarterly earnings and revenue.

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