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ESPN is one of those networks that truly needs no introduction. Sports fans all around the world are bound to be familiar with ESPN. Heck, even people that don’t care about sports know what ESPN is. And no, it is not when you can read someone else’s mind. That’s ESP (as the movie Mean Girls taught us all). Being tuned into ESPN, however, is something like having ESP for all of the sports that you care about. They have built quite a reputation for themselves over the years – to the point where many people swear by ESPN over all other sports news networks.
ESPN, however, it turns out, is useful for much more than just sports news. In fact, ESPN offers a streaming service of their own – one that, in addition to giving users access to tons of exclusive, original programming also props itself up as an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to keep up with all of the live games that they need to see.
Let’s face it: sometimes you have to miss the game. No matter how hardcore of a fan you might be, you can’t catch every play … or can you? Well, although it may not be possible to watch every play occur in real-time, there are premium services available to ensure that, at the very least, you can hear about every highlight from every game. And when it comes to premium sports streaming and news services, few come close to competing with ESPN Plus.
That being said, there are still so many sports streaming services out there to choose from, how do you know that ESPN Plus is truly the right one for you? Well, in order to make that decision, you will first have to take a sneak peek into the streaming service, learn more about it, and weigh how much the monthly charge is. So, without further ado, let’s delve into one of the top premium sports streaming services on the market, shall we?
The Walt Disney Corporation acquired a minority stake in BAMTech, an offshoot of MLB Advanced Media’s streaming technology endeavor in August of 2016. Disney bought their shares for a grand total of $1 billion – this also came with an option to acquire a majority share down the road if the investment proved to pan out the way that the Disney execs thought it might. Around the same time, however, it was also announced that ESPN (a subsidiary of Disney) had designs to develop an over the top streaming service of their own, described at the time as “an exploratory OTT project” that would broadcast primarily content and programming already owned by ESPN.
ESPN was already using BAMTech’s technology, it turned out, for its TV Everywhere service known as Watch ESPN. Disney CEO Bob Iger acknowledged at the time that even though profits in the cable television industry were falling due to cord-cutting, “live sports has really thrived, even in a world where there’s so much more for people to do and to watch.”
Fast forward to August of 2017: Disney invoked its right to acquire that majority stake in BAMTech. This announcement was bundled with the announcement that they would also be launching ESPN’s OTT streaming service in 2018 (which was to be followed by Disney’s own OTT service in 2019, which would become Disney Plus).
Disney claimed that ESPN’s streaming service would draw from ESPN-owned rights to sports broadcasts through their contracts with the MLB, NHL, and Major League Soccer. The redesign and redistribution of content of the ESPN app, then, would make ESPN Plus the “premier digital destination for sports content.” Disney continued its gradual digital media takeover in the following few years.
In December of 2017, for instance, Disney announced its acquisition of 20th Century Fox. The deal with Fox was to also allow ESPN Plus to include content owned by the Fox Sports Network (and all regional divisions). Ultimately, though, this plan would lead Disney to be legally obligated to abandon parts of the Fox Sports Network acquisition due to antitrust laws.
But that hasn’t stopped ESPN Plus from becoming one of the most popular (if not the most popular) OTT sports streaming services on the market. In February of 2018, Iger issued a statement that claimed that ESPN Plus was aiming for one of the most competitive monthly fees in the premium digital streaming world, at $4.99/month. And after some light corporate restructuring – BamTech and ESPN Plus were situated into a newly founded division of Disney, its Disney Direct to Consumer and International segment – on April 2nd, 2018, ESPN announced that ESPN Plus would be officially launching on April 12th of 2018; they also confirmed the $4.99/month price point.
It was a pretty seamless transition, too, for all previously subscribed users of ESPN premium services. On August 21st, 2018, for instance, ESPN announced that it had successfully merged its preexisting ESPN premium subscription service under ESPN Plus, which added access to the premium members’ section of ESPN.com (including exclusive stories, and advanced sports statistics and analytics tools). ESPN Insider users, then, were grandfathered into ESPN Plus, and the $10 difference in annual fees was waved.
As is to be expected with any Disney affiliated service, ESPN Plus offers a top-notch app design. In fact, for anyone who has seen Disney Plus before, ESPN Plus should look rather familiar. Similar, of course, to the classic Netflix layout (with thumbnails of content to choose from that is organized by categories), ESPN Plus (much like Disney Plus) has opted for a larger icon layout. I like the way that ESPN Plus looks, I actually dig the larger thumbnails, I think that it makes for a slightly more immersive experience. ESPN (and Disney) Plus has always felt less like I am browsing a library of episodes and more like I am somehow interacting with different content options.
Overall, from an aesthetic standpoint, I would say that the design of ESPN Plus is sleek. But even more importantly than that, it is user-friendly and seamless. By selecting a certain title, you will be given plenty of information on that title without necessarily having to click into a new page (the same cannot be easily said of, say, Hulu or Netflix’s somewhat clumsy designs). This allows for easy and convenient content browsing, the likes of which are seldom seen, especially when it comes to sports streaming services.
This is another area in which ESPN Plus really shines. ESPN Plus offers a great blend of live sports broadcasts, exclusive pay per view events, original TV content, as well as tons of news beats and stats that you just can’t find on any other sports network. As far as live TV is concerned, ESPN Plus offers thousands of games, including MLB, NHL, Series A, FA Cup, Top Rank Boxing, and MLS events. Plus, ESPN Plus lets you watch Grand Slam Tennis and tons of live broadcasts of all your favorite college-level sports, such as football, basketball, even lacrosse.
ESPN Plus also offers tons of ESPN original shows, many of which provide breakdowns and commentary from the most respected players of all time. Enjoy unlimited access to shows like Boardroom, Peyton’s Places, Ariel and the Bad Guy, and NBA Rooks (to name a few). Add to that list total access to tons of ESPN’s original sports documentaries with the 30 for 30 libraries and you will never run out of prerecorded on-demand content to enjoy – not to mention your unlimited access to ESPN’s premium sports articles, stats analytics, and exclusive deals on PPV events.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
ESPN Plus has one of the highest-rated sports apps on the market. With an average rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars on the Apple App Store (as well as being listed as the Editor’s Pick), people seem to be very pleased with both the mobile and desktop versions of ESPN Plus. And I will say, the experience between the 2 is about as seamless as it gets. Pause content on your Smart TV, for instance, and pick right back up where you left off on your iPhone or Android device. No matter what device you access ESPN Plus on, you’ll find a very intuitive and user-friendly experience.
Pricing and Plans
ESPN Plus, as I mentioned before, does offer one of the best prices in the streaming service game. For only $4.99/month, get full access to ESPN Plus. Or you are welcome to take advantage of a very unique offer. For only $12.99, you can bundle ESPN Plus with Hulu and Disney Plus. And that might just be the best deal on the web – for only a dollar or two more a month than you are paying for Netflix, you can get 3 of the best streaming platforms out there. Can’t go wrong with that package, if you ask me.