Technology developed by BAMTech will serve as the backbone of new streaming services, including a sports service built around ESPN, as The Walt Disney Company acquires majority ownership in the technology spinoff developed by MLBAM.
Disney announced a launch of a ESPN-branded multi-sport video-streaming service in early 2018, followed by a new Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service in 2019. The app will feature the current news and sports programming found on the ESPN app today, as well as 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. Consumers who are pay TV subscribers will also be able to access the ESPN television networks in the same app on an authenticated basis.
Under terms of the transaction, Disney will pay $1.58 billion to acquire an additional 42 percent stake in BAMTech from MLBAM, the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball. Disney previously acquired a 33 percent stake in BAMTech under an agreement that included an option to acquire a majority stake over several years, and today’s announcement marks an acceleration of that timetable for controlling ownership.
“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,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Walt Disney Company. “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.”
“We’re very proud of the content distribution innovations driven by MLBAM and BAMTech over the past 15 years,” said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. “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.”
The BAMTech transaction is subject to regulatory approval, and upon closing, Iger will serve as Chairman of the BAMTech Board. MLBAM and NHL will continue as minority stakeholders in BAMTech, with seats on the Board. John Skipper, ESPN President and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks, will manage the new ESPN-branded service.