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ESPN+ launches $4.99 sports streaming service from Disney

Disney's ESPN launches its first stand-alone streaming service, but don't get it twisted: ESPN+ doesn't have the games you watch on regular ESPN.

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Disney's first subscription streaming service, a $4.99-a-month sports video offering called ESPN+ (pronounced ESPN Plus), launched Thursday as part of a redesign of the sports network's app. 

Make no mistake: ESPN+ is not a Netflix-like version of ESPN, nor is it a proxy for the network's WatchESPN sports streaming app for traditional TV subscribers. ESPN+ doesn't have the live sports games or shows you'll find on the traditional ESPN channels. (So: No NFL, no NBA basketball games.) That sets it apart from other TV network streaming services, like those from HBO and Showtime, which essentially unlock all the same programming a traditional TV subscriber gets. 

It also presages a more significant streaming service from ESPN's parent company, Disney, late next year. Disney plans to launch its own version of Netflix, a direct-to-consumer digital service that will be the home base for streaming all of Disney's blockbuster movies, multiple Star Wars original series and other programming. 

Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney's direct-to-consumer and international businesses, said in a statement that ESPN+ marks "a new era of innovation" defined by Disney's direct relationship with consumers without a distribution middleman. 

Theses services are the first waves of Disney's transition into a digital-forward behemoth. With deep-pocketed tech companies like Netflix, Amazon and Apple pouring money into original movies and shows, Disney and other traditional entertainment companies are figuring out how to compete online. 

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ESPN+'s programming includes sports like Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and National Hockey League games, as well as Grand Slam tennis, rugby, golf, cricket and other sports. The service will also let users stream the library of ESPN films like its 30 for 30 documentaries. Disney's release about ESPN+ has details about the scope of the service's programming and games, a summary of which is included below. 

It will also have some exclusive original shows, like a basketball analysis show written and hosted by Kobe Bryant called Detail.

ESPN+ could change significantly pending Disney's deal to take over 21st Century Fox, which operates Fox Sports networks and some regional sports networks too. 

The service has a weeklong free trial. In addition to the $4.99 monthly rate, there's a discounted annual subscription for $49.99. You can cancel anytime. If you sign up before April 18, your free trial will last 30 days as part of a promotion. 

If you already have ESPN through a traditional TV provider, than the redesigned app for mobile devices will be able to live stream channel within the same app. The app will have sports scores, news, features and analysis, video highlights and clips, and the library of live and on-demand sports audio content.

The streaming service and the redesigned app will be available on both Apple's iOS and Google's Android mobile device systems, as well as on Apple TV, Amazon tablets and Fire TV products, and Google's Chromecast streaming-media device and Android TVs. 

Originally published at 6 am PT. 
Update at 6:47 am: Adds quote from Disney about service and link to programming details. 
Update at 7:28 am: Adds programming summary. 

ESPN+ live sports: 

  • MLB – A daily game, seven days per week, throughout the regular season, a total of more than 180 games that will include every MLB team.
  • NHL – Beginning with the 2018-19 season, a daily game throughout the regular season (in keeping with the NHL schedule), a total of more than 180 hockey games -- as well as on-demand replays of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
  • MLS – the entire MLS LIVE out-of-market schedule with more than 250 games this season, as well as the local-market home for the Chicago Fire, exclusively bringing 23 Fire matches to fans in Chicago. 
  • College Sports  – thousands of live events – including football, basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track & field, gymnastics, swimming & diving, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball, golf and more – from 20 conferences across the country. 
  • Top Rank Boxing – Hundreds of live boxing matches, including 18 ESPN+ exclusive Top Rank fight cards throughout the year, all Top Rank on ESPN undercard fights, re-airs of all Top Rank on ESPN and Top Rank on ESPN PPV bouts, plus weigh-ins and more. 
  • PGA Tour Golf – 50 days of coverage from 20 PGA tour events, including the RBC Heritage, THE PLAYERS Championship, the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the FedExCup Playoffs and more. 
  • Grand Slam Tennis – Hundreds of men's and women's singles, doubles and other matches, from the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 
  • Cricket – Hundreds of Test, ODI and T20 format matches from New Zealand Cricket and Cricket Ireland. 
  • Rugby – Hundreds of matches from SANZAAR Rugby, the HSBC World Rugby Sevens series, and Major League Rugby. 
  • Canadian Football League – Nearly 200 games from Canada's professional league. 
  • English Football League – Approximately 200 total matches, including an average of four per week from Sky Bet Championship Playoffs, League 1 and League 2, plus six matches per month from the EFL Cup (beginning in August) and 16 matches per month throughout the EFL 2018-19 season.
  • UEFA Nations League – Over 100 live matches from the newly created tournament. Pay TV customers with an ESPN+ subscription will be able to access the entire tournament including the 36 UNL matches on ESPN linear networks and ESPN3. 
  • United Soccer League – Approximately 450 USL matches this season. ORIGINALS – Exclusive, original content developed specifically for ESPN+, including original documentaries, docu-series and more. 
  • 30 for 30 Documentary "The Last Days of Knight" – The first film in the award-winning series to appear exclusively on ESPN+. 
  • Draft Academy – Exclusive access to ESPN's series that delivers a personal, behind-the-scenes look at top prospects leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. 
  • Quest for the Stanley Cup – Weekly behind-the-scenes documentary series that goes on the ice, in locker rooms, and inside the minds of the players and coaches for an all-access pass during the high-stakes NHL Playoffs. 

Shows

  • Detail (NBA) – Written, produced and hosted by Kobe Bryant, this basketball analysis show will provide his unparalleled insights and game observations about an ESPN-covered game played the day before. 
  • In The Crease (NHL) – A nightly hockey show co-hosted by ESPN's Linda Cohn and Barry Melrose providing comprehensive highlights and analysis. 
  • ESPN FC (Soccer) – ESPN's daily soccer news and information, highlights and analysis program hosted by Dan Thomas joined by top analysts and ESPN's renowned journalists from around the globe. New shows will be available weekdays and Sundays only on ESPN+. 

Library 

  • 30 for 30 Archive – The entire archive of the award-winning documentary films (more than 100 in total). ESPN+ will be the only platform where fans can access the full library.
  • E:60 and SC Featured – The best of ESPN's award-winning newsmagazine program, E:60, and storytelling brand, SC Featured. 
  • The Masters Films – Annual recaps of 57 years of The Masters, beginning with Arnold Palmer's 1960 victory, and going right up until 2017. 
  • Becoming – A program for youth and families, profiling the journeys of some of today's top athletes and how they got their start. Co-executive produced by LeBron James and business partner Maverick Carter. 
  • Jon Gruden's QB Camp – More than 60 episodes of Jon Gruden working with and talking to top QB prospects before they played a snap in the NFL. Among the subjects: Jimmy Garoppolo, Case Kennum, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Derek Carr and Dak Prescott. 
  • Indy 500 – More than 50 annual documentaries capturing the stories of one of the world's greatest auto racing events, from the 1960's to present day. 
  • Boxing Libraries – an unmatched, on-demand treasure chest of the greatest fights of all time, including hundreds of fights from the ESPN Big Fights Library and the Top Rank archive, such as Ali vs. Frazier I-III, Ali vs. Foreman, Duran vs. Leonard I-III, Hagler vs. Hearns,Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, among many, many more.

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