Disney CEO Bob Iger: ESPN, Marvel, and ‘Star Wars’ Could Go Over-the-Top, but Not Anytime Soon

/ Feb 3, 2015

Iger

ESPN may be experimenting with over-the-top distribution via its streaming plans for the Cricket World Cup, and it might have (at least slightly) accelerated the unbundling of cable by agreeing to join Dish’s Sling TV service, but don’t expect the most expensive cable network to fully cut the cord anytime soon.

On a call with investors, Disney CEO Bob Iger said ESPN’s partnership with Dish on Sling TV was a “worthwhile experiment,” particularly in the context of enticing young people who have never paid for TV to sample a cheaper alternative. Launched last week, Sling TV offers a core package of 12 channels, which includes ESPN among a few other networks, for $20 per month.

The pay-TV business is still a cash cow for ESPN and Disney, and the company sees no reason to gut it.

HBO, which is planning a standalone streaming product for this year, has made a similar argument. Its interest is in reaching the 10+ million broadband users who have cut the cord or have never paid for TV — not those who are already willing to pay for HBO via cable or satellite.

With that said, Iger did hint at a future in which Disney would go direct-to-consumer with its lucrative content properties. Iger said he wants to foster a “closer relationship to the consumer that can be mined for other revenue-generating purposes.” This could come in the form of OTT video services tied to assets like Marvel and “Star Wars,” he said.

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