For those who maintain a cable subscription, one of the (many) annoying aspects is that sometimes channels have streaming apps you can’t use, despite being a paying customer. Over the years, Comcast has decided that it’s not going to allow customers to use whatever channel’s app on one platform or another, but now the PlayStation 4 is off of that list. According to a tweet, owners with Comcast subscriptions can finally log in and use the WatchESPN and HBO Go apps on their game console.
Good news: Xfinity TV customers can now log-in and access HBO Go and WatchESPN on PS4.
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) December 6, 2016
As usual, there’s no explanation as to why it took so long (HBO Go launched on the PS4 in May 2015, WatchESPN just arrived in September). Even Roku scored Comcast support for HBO streaming back in 2014. Now, Comcast is one of the notable holdouts from the Apple TV single sign-on scheme. Whatever the reason, it’s resolved in this case, so it’s time to catch up on that Westworld finale.
Source: PlayStation (Twitter)
Rejoice, sports and console gaming fans: ESPN’s self-titled streaming app WatchESPN is now available on the PlayStation 4. According to the network, subscribers can now access ESPN’s live and on-demand content on every major streaming device, and non-subscribers can use the app to browse short-form clips and highlights. So now you can switch between a heated game of Call of Duty and the drone racing championships without putting down your DualShock 4.
“Gaming consoles have historically attracted significant engagement in minutes consumed for WatchESPN,” ESPN/Disney Senio VP Sean Breen said in a statement, “and with today’s launch, the app increases its distribution footprint to reach fans on the most widely adopted platforms.”
Unfortunately for cord-cutters, users will still need a cable subscription to access the majority of ESPN’s streaming content, but those with an authenticated subscription will have access to all of ESPN’s subsidiaries including ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, SEC Network, ESPN Goal Line and more.
While WatchESPN is also available for computers, smartphones and tablets, users on older PlayStaion consoles will have to wait a bit longer for a PS3 version of the app. That said, ESPN promises it will arrive “in time for the remainder of the college football season.”
ESPN’s first experiment with drone racing coverage must have been successful, as it’s committing to robotic sports in a big way. The TV network has unveiled a multi-year broadcasting deal with the Drone Racing League that will have both ESPN and ESPN2 airing races in the Americas, starting with the 2016 season. The series broadcast kicks off on October 23rd at 9PM, and will spread five races over the course of 10 episodes. It all comes to a head with two DRL World Championship episodes on November 20th.
Drone racing TV is crossing the Atlantic, too. Sky has landed its own deal that will bring DRL competitions to TV this fall through the Sky Sports Mix channel, with a race coming to London in 2017. Austrian, German and Swiss fans will want to either tune into 7Sports’ channels or attend the first-ever DRL event in Germany next year. All told, drone races are about to get much more exposure — they’re not truly mainstream, but they’re getting much closer.
Source: DRL (PR Newswire), ESPN MediaZone
Bloomberg believes that Amazon is considering buying the rights to a variety of live sporting events as a way of bringing more people into Prime. According to the site’s anonymous sources, the firm has made discreet enquiries about picking up licenses for global sports including tennis, golf, soccer and car racing. The company is believed to have a beady eye on domestic sports like baseball and basketball, although knows that traditional broadcasters have that sewn up for the next few years.
The report explains that Amazon hired a former Sports Illustrated executive, James DeLorenzo, to head up a sports division earlier this year. In addition, the company poached a former YouTube executive, Charlie Neiman, to look into partnering with sports companies and build new business opportunities. Amazon has refused to make a public comment, but these preliminary negotiations could be the start of a whole new broadcasting platform.
One of the existential problems that both Amazon and Netflix suffer from is that their audience has to make an effort to reach them. If you’re not that interested in highbrow dramas about the modern family, classical music or the political machinery in a bizarro-world White House, you won’t bother signing up. Netflix and Amazon have taken two very different routes to broaden their appeal beyond a hardcore audience — since both are believed to have around 50 million subscribers.
Netflix, for instance, is going for pure populism, and has broadened its outreach beyond blue-chip consumers who enjoy shows like Orange is the New Black. Shows like Fuller House and the deal it signed with Adam Sandler demonstrate how Netflix is attempting to move beyond its traditional customer base. Amazon, meanwhile, is hoping that bundling its own platform with Prime means that its retail customers are, invariably, going to want to check out its more populist original shows.
The rights to live sports broadcasts are likely to be the most lucrative, and expensive, things that broadcasters can buy. For instance, each of the big three networks spends around a billion dollars each year for the right to air NFL Games. In return for that outlay, they can expect audiences of between 18 and 21 million, which would be eye-gougingly high for a company like Amazon.
It’s not just Amazon or Netflix which are looking to sports to help break its apparent ceiling in subscriber numbers, either. Twitter signed a deal with the National Football League to stream 10 Thursday night games that are currently broadcast on NBC and CBS. Facebook, meanwhile, has considered joining the fray for sports rights, and has experimented with showing live soccer games on its own video platform.
Admittedly, every hurdle between audience and channel reduces that figure — so ESPN, which requires a cable subscription to access, only gets audiences of 13 million. Given the current extra layer of complexity required for consumers to get Instant Video on their TVs, it’s likely that the potential audience would be less that than ESPN can expect.
Of course, the big three networks can afford to spend billions on sports because they make that money back with ads. Amazon doesn’t air commercials, and would probably have to charge a pretty penny for an ad-free sports tier on Prime. Then again, if it did air commercials, it’d suffer a similar backlash to the one Netflix suffered at the mere rumor that it would bring ads into its shows.
Millennials, unfortunately, hate ads, and this has even affected NBC, a show that relies entirely upon promotional spots for revenue. Earlier this year, it conceded that such breaks are hostile to users and will reduce the amount of marketing clips in Saturday Night Live to win back younger audiences.
The Walt Disney Company has announced it is acquiring a minority 33 percent stake in BAMTech, a video streaming company previously formed by Major League Baseball, for $1 billion. Disney has the option to acquire majority ownership of BAMTech in the coming years.
Disney said it will collaborate with BAMTech to launch and distribute a new ESPN-branded multi-sport subscription streaming service in the future. The direct-to-consumer service will feature content provided by both BAMTech and ESPN, and include live regional, national, and international sporting events. The deal will also support streaming video and digital products from ABC and Disney, and future digital initiatives.
Disney currently offers a free video streaming service called WatchESPN, but a cable or satellite TV subscription is required for authentication. The new multi-sport service would presumably allow cord-cutters to watch live games and other sporting events on the web, smartphones, and tablets for a set cost per month. ESPN broadcasts MLB, NBA, WNBA, MLS, NCAA sports, and more.
A big caveat: current content on ESPN’s networks such as SportsCenter and Monday Night Football will not be streamed. The service will feature sports content not appearing on ESPN channels, including a mixture of MLB and NHL games.
Apple’s much rumored streaming TV service was originally expected to include content from Disney properties, but the plans were postponed late last year. Apple has a close relationship with Disney, which made the late Steve Jobs its biggest shareholder upon acquiring Pixar in 2006. Disney CEO and chairman Bob Iger has also held a seat on Apple’s board of directors since 2011.
Tags: ESPN, Disney
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Today The Walt Disney Company released its quarterly earnings report, but the most interesting news has to do with ESPN. Disney confirmed reports it’s making a $1 billion investment in BAMTech, a spinoff from MLB’s Advanced Media business that, among other things, works on technology for streaming video services like HBO Now. The big news, however, is that BAMTech is working on ESPN with a “direct to consumer” (read: you won’t need cable or satellite to get it) “ESPN-branded multi-sport subscription streaming service.”
The only curious thing? Whatever that service ends up being, it apparently won’t feature current content from ESPN’s TV networks, so probably no Street Fighter V or drone racing. We’re not sure what’s left, but there is an earning call currently ongoing and we may learn a few more details shortly.
Disney CEO Bob Iger said in an interview with CNBC (embedded above) that it will include products that BAMTech already has licenses for, including MLB, NHL and major college sports, it just won’t take content off of ESPN’s channels. Reading between the lines, it seems like there may be a bundled way to buy things that we’ve already seen in products like MLB At-Bat.
Source: Disney Q3 Earnings, ESPN
Just when we were getting used to ESPN and eSports coverage, the worldwide leader in sports is adding another new event to its slate: drone racing. It’s not on the broadcast channels yet, but today and tomorrow at 1PM ET on ESPN3 (probably via the WatchESPN app) you can watch the 2016 U.S. National Drone Racing Championships.
Held on Governor’s Island in New York City it’s promising “jaw-dropping views” of Manhattan to go along with 60mph+ racing that will crown the fastest drone pilot in the US. If you miss the streams (or are just caught up in Olympics action), there will be a one-hour special airing on ESPN after this event and after the World Championships in October.
Source: Marketwatch, DroneNationals.com, Drone Sports Association
At the WWDC 2016 event, Apple revealed a number of improvements on the way for the Apple TV, including a new feature called single sign-on. That would let cable TV subscribers log in once, and immediately have all their supported apps authorized without needing to log in (often repeatedly) within each individual app. Now Recode cites industry sources saying that Apple is working on “digital TV guide” for the Apple TV and its other devices that would display content from sources like Netflix and HBO all in one place.
The plan is described as growing from Apple’s previously rumored plan to offer a TV package of its own. In this iteration, Apple wouldn’t sell content, just create a showcase for others, and it has reportedly requested metadata from the providers to fill out its guide.
The Xbox OneGuide at launch in 2013.
If the plan comes to fruition, then Apple will be retreading ground covered by others. Microsoft may have the most ambitious attempt with the Xbox One’s OneGuide that blends live TV and apps while relying on an HDMI passthrough and IR blasters to pull in content from the cable box, but the UI and universal search on devices like Amazon’s Fire TV and the Roku platform serve similar functions.
Apple already set up its move by bringing the Siri remote and voice search with its new Apple TV box, and when it announced single sign-on in June it mentioned the feature would work on iOS as well. The major remaining questions are if customers will be able to use the feature, and if they can, will they want to? On Xbox, Microsoft had limited success working with the cable TV guard. It did manage to get Comcast to allow logging in with HBO Go and other apps, but Comcast killed its Xbox 360 app after a while, and Verizon’s FiOS TV app for Xbox One suffered a similar fate earlier this year.
The revamped OneGuide that launched last year.
Apple’s challenge could be to build a guide that’s easier to access than simply diving into apps like Netflix or Hulu and poking around there. On Xbox, app channels do a good job of highlighting what’s best inside each app, but they’re not especially personal or deep. The OneGuide got a lot of attention during the Xbox One’s initial introduction a few years ago and is a big part of the new experience rolled out at the end of 2015, but it didn’t merit a mention in details of the latest mid-year update.
I don’t even see an app channel for Netflix on my Xbox One, and securing support from such a major provider would be key for Apple to launch any kind of guide. The only problem is getting all of those different providers to accept sharing space in a UI that none of them control — good luck doing that.
This was a big week for diversions. Nintendo is sitting pretty thanks to its overnight smash hit, Pokémon Go — not to mention the excitement surrounding its upcoming NES Classic Edition mini-console. Additionally, MoviePass rolled out its revised film subscription rates. ESPN is finally giving eSports the attention it deserves. And Twitter tripled the size limit for displaying animated gifs to a whopping 15MB. Numbers, because how else will you know who holds the high score?
ESPN is increasing its eSports coverage in a big way. The network will be airing 18 hours of eSports programming on ESPN2 and ESPNU on Sunday, July 17. This will mark the first time ESPN will air an entire eSports block on its major networks, a far cry from the days when it relegated League of Legends matches to streams on the web.
The programming block will start at 10 AM ET with re-airings of past matches such as the Madden NFL 2016 championship, and both the 2015 and 2016 Heroes of the Dorm: Championships. This will all lead up to the much anticipated 2016 Street Fighter V EVO World Championship final in Las Vegas, airing at 10 PM ET on ESPN2. Don’t worry cord cutters, all programs will also be available to stream via WatchESPN.
This is yet another sign of eSports going mainstream. It was only in 2015 that ESPN aired its first Heroes of the Storm tournament match on live TV. Since then, the network has launched a dedicated section on its site that focuses on professional gaming, and has aired a handful of championship matches.
With eSports bringing in over half a billion dollars in revenue in 2016 alone, it’s inevitable that ESPN will continue to increase its eSports coverage. It feels like a lifetime ago network president John Skippe said eSports aren’t real sports.