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Disney Focuses on ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu amid Cord Cutting

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Disney’s over-the-top offerings

The Walt Disney Company (DIS) has been making efforts to expand its over-the-top streaming business to combat its digital rivals. Players such as Netflix (NFLX), Amazon’s (AMZN) Amazon Prime, and Alphabet’s (GOOGL) YouTube are competing to boost their subscriber bases by offering original shows and programming.

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ESPN’s direct-to-consumer service

Disney launched its ESPN+ streaming service in April 2018 to combat falling ESPN subscriber numbers. Disney has been losing ESPN subscribers for the last five straight years. It ended fiscal 2018 with 86 million ESPN subscribers, down from the nearly 100 million subscribers it had in fiscal 2013.

ESPN+ offers access to MLB games, NHL games, UFC fights, and global soccer events such as Top Rank Boxing. The company’s streaming service also offers live sports, on-demand content, and original content, such as 30 for 30 documentaries, for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year. The service has attracted 2 million paid subscribers since its launch in April 2018. 

Disney+ and Hulu

After the success of ESPN+, Disney is scheduled to launch another direct-to-consumer offering, Disney+, toward the end of 2019. Disney+ will stream new shows, Disney movies, and animated content. However, the Disney+ launch will mean that the company will break its licensing deal with Netflix this year. After the completion of its acquisition of the media assets of 21st Century Fox (FOXA), Disney will own a 60% stake in Hulu.

The company has plans to offer all three streaming services to subscribers via a single sign-up. Further, CEO Robert Iger stated on the company’s fiscal 2019 first-quarter earnings conference call that if people purchase all three services, the company “would give them an opportunity potentially at a discount or two for that matter.”

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