BAMTech acquisition heralds launch of Disney direct-to-customer service | OTT | News | Rapid TV News
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In a move that threatens to shake up the current over-the-top (OTT) and subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) arenas, The Walt Disney Company is to launch an ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018, followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019.

waltdisney 9august2017The first part of the streaming strategy is the news that the company has taken majority ownership of streaming company BAMTech in whom almost exactly 12 months ago Disney acquired a 33% stake. Previously the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball, MLBAM, BAMTech was founded in 2000 and provides direct-to-consumer streaming services, data analytics and commerce management with nearly 7.5 million total paid subscribers to its clients’ OTT products. The multi-platform offering also has back-end technology can personalise and enhance content-viewing experiences and is capable of serving live content to global consumers.

Under terms of the new transaction, Disney will pay MLBAM $1.58 billion to acquire an additional 42% stake in BAMTech and says that the announcement marks an acceleration of that timetable for controlling ownership.

The result will be an ESPN-branded multi-sport service that will offer an array of sports programming, featuring 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.

The new service will be accessed through an enhanced version of the current ESPN app. In addition to the multi-sport service, the ESPN app will include the news, highlights and scores. Pay-TV subscribers will also be able to access the ESPN television networks in the same app on an authenticated basis.

“This is an exciting validation of our team, its achievements and the customer-centric platform it’s built,” commented BAMTech chief executive officer Michael Paull. “Yet, we’ve merely scratched the surface of what can be accomplished in a future where we combine Disney and ESPN’s world-class IP and our proprietary direct-to-consumer ecosystem.”

“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,” added The Walt Disney Company chairman and chief executive officer Robert A Iger. “This ... and the launch of our direct-to-consumer services mark an entirely new growth strategy for the company, one that takes advantage of the incredible opportunity that changing technology provides us to leverage the strength of our great brands.”

The new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer services will also become the exclusive home in the US for SVOD viewing of the newest live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar, beginning with the 2019 theatrical slate. The latter includes Toy Story 4, the sequel to Frozen, and The Lion King from Disney live-action, along with other films.

Disney says that it will also make a ‘significant’ investment in an annual slate of original movies, TV shows, short-form content and other Disney-branded exclusives for the service. Additionally, the service will feature library content including Disney and Pixar movies and Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD television programming.

Significantly, and in a move that may threaten the current SVOD ecosystem, Disney has confirmed that the move will mean it will end its distribution agreement with Netflix for subscription streaming of new releases, beginning with the 2019 calendar year theatrical slate.

The Disney and ESPN streaming services are set to made will available for purchase directly from Disney and ESPN, in app stores, and from authorised MVPDs.