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The Walt Disney Company will launch its own streaming service as soon as 2019, the company announced.
Following this week’s acquisition of BAMTech — the company behind live streaming of major US sports, including Major League Baseball, WWE and the National Hockey League — Disney noted that it will also lunch an ESPN-branded “multi-sport video streaming service” in early 2018.
The deal sees Walt’s company dropping an additional US$1.58-billion to secure an additional 42% stake in the firm. It previously owned just 33%. This values BAMTech — which was owned by Major League Baseball’s internet company, MLBAM — at around US$3.75-billion.
“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,” Disney’s chairman and CEO Robert Iger explains.
Disney, while dropping Netflix, will also launch a sports streaming service in early 2018
“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.”
For those who love watching Disney, Pixar and Marvel movies on other streaming services, this could be unwelcome news.
According to the company, the streaming service will debut some of the Disney portfolio’s biggest upcoming movies, including the new Toy Story flick, the Frozen sequel and the live-action Lion King remake.
The company will also load the service with library content from generations past and present.
“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,” the company adds.
Notably, this severed agreement doesn’t include Marvel shows, Iger told CNBC in an interview.
Disney doesn’t mention if the ESPN live streaming service includes the likes of the NBA or NFL, but there’s a more intriguing possibility discarded by Disney in its press release: eSports.
BAMTech last year acquired the rights to broadcast Riot Games’ League of Legends tournaments through to 2023. This could allow Disney an avenue to eventually take on the likes of Amazon (Twitch), YouTube and Facebook Live.
As for the Star Wars and Marvel lovers out there, additional streaming services for each could also be on the cards in the future.