ESPN's Web Service Gains Exclusive Pro Soccer RightsBy and
League kills its streaming service for tie-in with Disney unit
Soccer fans will see price cut, more content with new deal
Major League Soccer is shutting down its MLS Live streaming product and shifting those games to ESPN+, the new streaming service Walt Disney Co. plans to launch in the next few months, according to people familiar with the plan.
The teams have been notified, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the change hasn’t been publicly announced. Fans will be able to watch about 250 out-of-market games a year, meaning they won’t be able to see their home teams. The accord doesn’t impact ESPN’s regularly scheduled televised soccer matches, which won’t be on the web service.
Still the change will be a bargain for soccer fans. The MLS Live service was priced at $79 a year, while the new ESPN streaming product will be $5 a month, or $60 annually. In addition to the soccer games, ESPN+ subscribers will get access to thousands of other live events a year, including pro baseball, hockey and tennis, as well as college sports.
An MLS spokesman declined to comment. Financial arrangements between Disney and the league weren’t known.
ESPN+ will debut this spring, likely after the March 3 start of the soccer season, so matches will be available for free on MLSsoccer.com until the new service is available, according to one of the people.
The ESPN streaming product is a crucial part of Disney’s big online push. The world’s largest entertainment company will introduce a Disney-branded streaming service, with “Star Wars,” Marvel and Pixar films, late next year. To obtain more film and TV content, Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger is acquiring much of 21st Century Fox Inc. for $52.4 billion, including that company’s regional sports networks.