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ESPN's next play: Direct to web?

The cable sports giant is reportedly planning a direct-to-web live-sports package. It would be a small-scale offering though, meant as a test.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: A view of the logo during ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
Mike Windle/Getty Images

ESPN is apparently ready to take a shot at offering a direct-to-web live-sports package. That is, if a report from The Information is on target.

An anonymous source told the news site that the Walt Disney-owned sports network is planning to offer a package that would include niche leagues and maybe some college sports, but none of the network's blue-chip content like pro basketball or football. No time frame is mentioned for a launch.

The effort is designed to help ESPN learn what works online, The Information said.

As more people ditch their cable deals and move to internet-streaming services like Netflix, sports giant ESPN has lost millions of subscribers, hurting Disney's lucrative cable network business. In May, ESPN launched an ad campaign touting its live broadcasts and taking a swipe at streaming services and social media.

In moving to a live-streaming model, though, ESPN would need to be careful not to ruffle the feathers of cable and satellite companies that offer its programming.

Last July, Disney CEO Bob Iger said it was inevitable that ESPN would go direct to consumers but that such a move wasn't "right around the corner." And in February, ESPN President John Skipper said a standalone service wouldn't happen anytime soon.

"We will look at direct to consumer...and decide to be more aggressive when we think it will help us grow our business," Skipper said at the time.

ESPN declined to comment on the Information report.