Disney Launching Standalone ESPN Streamer Following Surprise Combined Sports Service

The company is also investing $1.5 billion in Fortnite parent Epic Games

Disney is making good on its promise to take ESPN direct-to-consumer.

During the company’s quarterly earnings call Wednesday, CEO Bob Iger announced an arrival date for the standalone ESPN streaming service, planned for August 2025.

The upcoming streamer will remain separate from the sports streaming service with Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery, which was announced yesterday. That streamer is slated to launch later this year.

Meanwhile, Disney’s standalone ESPN service will include the full suite of ESPN channels, as well as digital integrations like ecommerce, ESPN Bet and fantasy sports.

“Ultimately, our mission is to make ESPN into the preeminent digital sports brand,” said Iger. “ESPN has long prioritized its desire and ability to serve sports fans wherever they are, and these steps will strengthen ESPN’s ability to deliver on that promise.”

The new service comes in addition to streamer ESPN+, which has plateaued at around 25 million subscribers.

Disney designed ESPN+ as an addition to the company’s linear sports portfolio; however, the new offering combines ESPN’s full linear, digital and streaming portfolios.

“We’re excited to offer a more unified streaming experience, which you expect will deliver strong benefits in terms of higher engagement, lower churn and greater advertising potential,” said Iger. “Success for us in this, basically migration, would be to maintain ESPN’s position in sports in general, the affinity that fans have with ESPN and the attractiveness of ESPN to advertisers and sports leagues.”

The new ESPN service will also be available bundled with Disney+ and Hulu, similarly to how the company currently bundles products.

A new bundle

Besides the ESPN streamer, the joint venture sports service coming later this year combines ESPN’s, WBD’s and Fox’s linear and streaming sports portfolios.

Iger emphasized to analysts that the ESPN standalone differs from the upcoming combined streaming service by including features like integrated betting, fantasy, a “likely” sales arm and deep dives into statistics.

When analysts brought up questions about the possibility of the combined service cannibalizing Disney’s linear business, Iger brushed off concerns.

“We’re going to get paid in this new joint venture for our channels at a level that’s commensurate with the level that we get paid for those channels in the multichannel ecosystem,” said Iger.

While networks like FX, National Geographic and Freeform are not included in the new service, Iger pointed to Disney+ and Hulu as other streaming options.

“For us, it’s very low risk,” Iger said.

Game time

In addition to the game-changing news that the Taylor Swift Eras Tour film will be arriving on Disney+ next month, the company also announced a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, the parent company of Fortnite.

The companies will develop a “transformational games and entertainment universe” in a move that marks Disney’s largest investment in the gaming space yet.

While Disney has previously licensed characters like Spider-Man and collaborated with Epic for Fortnite characters, the new partnership will have Disney and the Fortnite studio collaborating on new games—with shoppable experiences, of course.

“This new universe from Disney and Epic provides us with a tremendous opportunity to not only meet more consumers where they are but to allow more audiences to cultivate a bond with Disney’s iconic brands and franchises,” said Iger.