Disney breaks up with Netflix to launch streaming services for films, ESPN

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Why it matters to you

New streaming services from Disney and ESPN will give cord-cutters even more options to choose from.

They say competition is good for consumers; if so, the future is only looking brighter for cord cutters. On Tuesday, The Walt Disney Company announced it plans to pull its movies from Netflix and launch its own streaming service, which will be available in the U.S. in 2019.

It’s a logical step for Disney, which last year purchased a 33 percent share in BAMTech, MLB Advanced Media’s streaming technology company; BAMTech’s previous projects include HBO Now and MLB’s streaming service. Disney also announced it is now buying an additional 42 percent stake in BAMTech for $1.58 billion.

In a statement, Disney CEO Bob Iger said, “The media landscape is increasingly defined by direct relationships between content creators and consumers, and our control of BAMTech’s full array of innovative technology will give us the power to forge those connections, along with the flexibility to quickly adapt to shifts in the market.”

The new platform won’t just host Disney classics. The company plans to make a “significant investment in an annual slate of original movies, TV shows” and more.

Iger also announced that Disney will be launching a new, stand-alone ESPN streaming service in 2018. This is huge news for cord-cutters who have left cable behind but still yearn to watch sports. It is also big for ESPN, which has had a rough couple of years. The sports media empire lost 12 million subscribers since its peak in 2011, and the company fired a number of high-profile employees in 2017, including NBA reporters Marc Stein and Chad Ford. Former ESPN writer Bill Simmons claimed that the company was too slow to recognize the importance of digital infrastructure.

According to Disney’s statement, the new ESPN service will offer “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.” There is no confirmation yet on pricing. Disney says that “The new service will be accessed through an enhanced version of the current ESPN app.”

This is not the only important cord-cutting news of late. FX recently announced it is partnering with Comcast to deliver FX+, a $6 per month, ad-free streaming service that includes all of the network’s original series. However, that service will be linked to cable subscriptions. If Disney’s new plans let viewers say goodbye to cable while keeping ESPN’s multiple sports packages, it could be a serious blow to cable companies and the status quo at large.