As of August 13, the cost of a subscription will go to $7 a month, from $6, mirroring a recent uptick for Disney+. A full-year subscription will now run $70, up from $60. The price for Disney’s popular bundle with Hulu and Disney+ will remain unchanged, as will the rate for pay-per-view UFC fights, the company said. The ad-supported bundle is $14 a month.
In its most recent quarterly earnings report, Disney said ESPN+ had 13.8 million subscribers. The company has not said how many of those came in via the bundle, which rolled out in 2020.
When ESPN+ launched in April 2018, it cost $5 a month. At that point, it had a minimal number of live offerings for viewers who subscribe only to the service and not to ESPN through a pay-TV package. In the intervening years, more and more sports programming has migrated to streaming, with Amazon claiming Thursday night NFL rights and Paramount+ and Peacock also booking some exclusives.
Disney is seen as one of the bidders for rights to NFL Sunday Ticket games, which are currently controlled by AT&T’s DirecTV. Under the company’s recent deal for NHL rights, 75 national games will stream exclusively on ESPN+, with 1,000 overall games on the platform during the multi-year agreement. On deck are PGA Tour events, LaLiga soccer, SEC college football and expansions of current deals for Wimbledon, Major League Baseball and the NFL, on top of a raft of original programming available only on ESPN+.
Bob Chapek, who took over as Disney CEO in 2020, has been asked repeatedly about the outlook for ESPN given the company’s broader ambitions in streaming. It’s perhaps the ultimate conundrum in modern media, as the fat profit margins from traditional pay-TV, not to mention the reach, would give any exec pause. Pricing for a stand-alone ESPN product would also be several times the current version’s $7 a month.
“When the right time comes for us to make a step function increase, as we’ve done with our entertainment platforms to our sports platforms, and it’s accretive to our shareholder proposition, we’ll go ahead and do that,” Chapek said in May during the company’s last conference call with Wall Street analysts. “Our longer-term vision is to parallel path both ESPN and ESPN+.”