ESPN president pleased as college football and new rights deals bring more content to ESPN+
Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN president and Disney Media Networks co-chair, is happy with the performance of ESPN+ to date as the service continues to evolve.
Additional content offerings include 200 college football games, 70 of which will be delivered via ESPN+ in the first three weeks of the season.
“As Bob Iger said in the [last] earnings call, we are very heartened by the conversion rates we are seeing on the ESPN+ side,” he said during a media day event last week at ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, CT. “We are enthused by the number of people that are trying the service and subscribing. And we are very pleased with the number of people who are converting from the free experience to the paid experience.”
Pitaro says that college football is an important component of the ESPN+ content strategy.
“We are entering our first season and the subscription service will stream more than 200 football games from at least nine conferences, and that includes the Ivy League, SunBelt, MAC, Conference USA, etc,” he said. “And out of those 200 70 will air on ESPN+ in the first three weeks and that is incredibly exciting.”
The key, he adds, is to use ESPN+ to serve all college football fans. “We recognise a fan of Dartmouth football will be just as passionate as a fan of Alabama football,” he says. “And we want to serve every sports fan, whether you are a fan of Dartmouth or a fan of Alabama.”
ESPN+ has two subscription models, either $5 per month or $50 for the whole year. The service includes live MLB, NHL, NBA, and MLS games, as well as PGA golf, Top Rank Boxing, and Grand Slam Tennis matches. Other sports include the United Soccer League, cricket, rugby, Canadian Football League, English Football League, and UEFA Nations League games.
“This is really the first inning,” he says. “It’s the first inning in terms of the product, the first inning in terms of looking at the road map, and I am incredibly pleased with what is coming up from the tech perspective.”
The technology side is being handled by an integrated team that includes ESPN and BamTech. A reorganisation in March more closely aligned the ESPN and BamTech technical side, a step that ensures both entities are closely aligned on the priority of making ESPN+ a success.
Meanwhile a reorganised sales team is focused on rights and programming and that team has been busy. On August 7 they nailed down a deal for the Italian Serie A football league that will include more 340 matches delivered via ESPN+. August 13 saw the announcement of ESPN+ carrying as many as 140 matches from Australia’s Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League; 60 from the Chinese Super League; and 102 regular season Eredivisie matches (three per week, August through May). And on August 15 a deal was announced to bring 79 Emirates FA Cup matches as well as highlights and review shows from the UK to ESPN+.
Connor Schell, ESPN, EVP, Content, added that original non-fiction programming will be an important part of the ESPN+ path to the future.