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Disney to buy majority stake in BAMTech; plans streaming service in 2019

Major developments are afoot at The Walt Disney Company. Disney will be acquiring majority stake in direct-to-consumer streaming technology and marketing services company BAMTech. Under terms of the transaction, Disney will pay $1.58 billion to acquire an additional 42 per cent stake in BAMTech from MLBAM, the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball. Disney had previously acquired a 33 per cent stake in BAMTech. 

Along with this, Disney is planning to launch its ESPN-branded multi-sport video streaming service in early 2018, which will be followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service to be launched in 2019. 

The ESPN-branded multi-sport service will offer a robust 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 that fans enjoy today. Consumers who are pay TV subscribers will also be able to access the ESPN television networks in the same app on an authenticated basis. 

Plans are for the Disney and ESPN streaming services to be available for purchase directly from Disney and ESPN, in app stores, and from authorised MVPDs. 

Meanwhile, the new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service will become the exclusive home in the US for subscription-video-on-demand viewing of the newest live action and animated movies from Disney and Pixar. Disney 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 a vast collection of library content, including Disney and Pixar movies and Disney Channel, Disney Junior and Disney XD television programming. 

With this strategic shift, Disney will end its distribution agreement with Netflix for subscription streaming of new releases, beginning with the 2019 calendar year theatrical slate. 

In a release issued, Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company, stated, “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. This acquisition 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.” 

“This is an exciting validation of our team, its achievements and the customer-centric platform it’s built,” said Michael Paull, Chief Executive Officer, BAMTech. “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.” 

“We’re very proud of the content distribution innovations driven by MLBAM and BAMTech over the past 15 years,” said Commissioner of Baseball, Robert D. Manfred, Jr., adding, “Major League Baseball will continue to work with Disney and ESPN to further grow BAMTech as it breaks new ground in technologies for consumers to access entertainment and sports programming.”

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