Disney Is Hiking ESPN+ Rates 43% — Will the Increase Affect Your Subscription Bundle?

Streaming Services Photo Illustrations, Krakow, Poland - 06 Feb 2022
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Citing higher programming costs, Walt Disney will be hiking the price of its popular ESPN+ sports streaming service by 43%, marking its second price increase in just over a year, per Deadline.

Viewers who subscribe to the Disney bundle — which includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu’s on-demand service — will not be affected by this move, nor will pay-per-view UFC events increase in price. This is a standalone subscription price jump for ESPN+ monthly/yearly streamers, and potentially a move that will nudge more people to subscribe to a Disney bundle for just a fraction more than the single ESPN+ channel.

As Geetha Ranganathan from Bloomberg Intelligence noted, there is a change afoot for media companies, “from subscriber growth to profitability,” adding that “they’re even willing to risk a little bit of churn if they can boost their ARPU (average revenue per user) number.”

Streaming rates, due to take effect on August 23, will rise to $9.99 a month from $6.99 and to $99.99 a year from $69.99. The price increase will affect approximately 22.3 million ESPN+ subscribers, according to Bloomberg. As a comparison, the single sport channels NBA League Pass and MLB.tv cost $14.99 and $24.99 per month, respectively. Disney bundles cost $13.99 a month.

Both expenses and programming have significantly grown at ESPN+ since it debuted in 2018. In addition to its vast live sports coverage, the service now includes 1,000 out-of-market National Hockey League games, expanded PGA Tour golf programming and a bunch of original series like “Man in the Arena: Tom Brady”, Peyton Manning’s “Peyton’s Places” and the upcoming Derek Jeter program “The Captain.” TechCrunch says that ESPN+ now offers more than 22,000 live events.

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But more live coverage and original content comes at a cost. Despite its intention to turn a profit by 2023, Bloomberg reported that during the quarter that ended in April, ESPN+ production and programming costs rose 48% to $454 million, while its “direct-to-consumer business” — which includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu — lost $887 million in the same quarter.

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