By Ben Sullivan
Disney’s not-so-secret plan to offer ESPN’s main channel direct to consumers is picking up steam.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Disney is actively preparing for the move and even has a code name for the project: “Flagship.”
While there’s still no timeline for taking the channel DTC, a few interesting details are beginning to emerge. ESPN is making its cable contracts more flexible to facilitate streaming and is engaged in similar discussions with pro sports leagues, according to the WSJ.
The intricacies of its existing media deals make it impossible for Disney to take ESPN direct-to-consumer at the snap of a finger, so any moves to begin laying that groundwork are clear signs of the company’s long-term intentions.
Streaming growth has been key for Disney as ESPN+ continues adding subscribers and becomes a bigger player in sports rights, hence the emphasis on increasing synergy between broadcast and OTT options.
Despite seemingly never-ending rumors that ESPN could be sold, Disney made the sports network a major part of its upfront presentation this week in New York — signaling a push toward making ESPN easily available to the next generation of tech-savvy fans.