ESPN+ is finally here.
Disney's latest product is a direct-to-consumer subscription video service for all you MLB and NHL sports fans. There’s no separate app to install on your device; it's all within the redesigned ESPN app that's now available. Here's what you need to know about it.
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What is ESPN+?
ESPN+ is owned by Disney. It's overseen by the company's BAMTech unit, which is behind other popular video apps from the likes of HBO, WWE, and others. BAMTech will also power Disney’s new standalone video service due in 2019. The two offerings, plus Disney’s stake in Hulu, are all part of Disney's plan to take back its streaming rights and dominate in the space. It wants to kick Netflix in the... you know where.
Disney has made it clear that this is the first stage of ESPN+. If the Disney and 21st Century Fox deal closes, for instance, the service might add Fox Sports programming. Disney has also floated that ESPN+ might one day be bundled with Disney’s upcoming service. Just don't ever expect ESPN, the cable channel and network, to become a completely standalone streaming service any time in the near future.
ESPN still makes a lot of money off affiliate fees. It charges cable providers, such as Comcast, Charter, Spectrum, Verizon, DirecTV, etc, and it likely does not want to risk cannibalising the main ESPN network for the sake of appeasing cord cutters.
How much does ESPN+ cost?
ESPN+ costs $4.99 a month ($49.99, if you pay annually).
There is a 7-day free trial is available, too. If you sign up by 18 April 2018, the trial period will be extended to 30 days.
Where and how can you watch ESPN+?
The new ESPN+ service is not a standalone app. It lives inside the existing ESPN app, which is available on a range of devices, including smartphones, game consoles, and streaming TV boxes and players. At launch, ESPN+ works on Android devices, iOS devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and the web. Go to ESPN's FAQ page here to view the full list of currently supported devices.
How does ESPN+ work?
Purchase a ESPN+ subscription
A subscription to ESPN+ is available to buy via the ESPN app and ESPN.com. You can only access ESPN+ content after you have subscribed. Log in using your current ESPN account or create a new account via the ESPN app or from the web (here). You'll be prompted to log in or create a new account when buying a subscription. Note: the ESPN app itself is still free. You still get all the same news, highlights, etc.
Look for Gold icon and Watch tab
The entire ESPN app has been redone with a card-based-like UI, complete with rounded corners and cool transitions and effects. You'll get relevant news, smarter video recommendations, and more. You'll also see ESPN+ highlighted prominently throughout the app.
That's because all ESPN+ content is designated in the refreshed ESPN app with a gold icon, so you can easily see that it’s available with your subscription. ESPN has a revamped Watch tab, too, which has a new black background (whereas all other tabs are light). It's where you'll go to access free highlights, livestreams from ESPN channels (pay TV customers only), and ESPN+ content, which has its own section.
What content does ESPN+ offer?
ESPN+ promises to offer live games, studio series, and original programs.
ESPN+ will stream “thousands” of hours of live games, though mostly for niche stuff. You'll find live soccer, boxing, golf, tennis, rugby, cricket, and several college sports. You can also add on packages like MLB.TV or NHL.TV packages for more money.
Original programming and studio shows
Yes, ESPN+ has live events, like for Major League Soccer, but it also has original programming (Draft Academy gives “a behind-the-scenes look at top prospects leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft"), exclusive studio shows (Kobe Bryant is hosting a basketball analysis show called Detail), and a deep catalogue of content (including titles like E:60 and OJ: Made in America).
Series and films
ESPN+ is also the only place you’ll find the entire archive of the 30 for 30 documentary film series.
When a new 30 for 30 airs on cable, pay TV customers will briefly be able to watch it on demand, but then, it’ll go to ESPN+. Many films will also be exclusive to ESPN+, such as “The Last Days of Knight” that’s premiering on the service in April 2018.
What content doesn't ESPN+ offer?
NFL and NBA
Disney's new ESPN+ service is not a replacement for ESPN. It'll complement the cable channel, which is home to SportsCenter and live games from all the major pro leagues. For instance, the new streaming service does not stream live NFL games, live NBA games, and no Sunday Night Baseball. But you do get one free MLB and NHL game every day (when they’re in season, and they're subject to blackout rules).
What quality are ESPN+ streams?
ESPN+ video streams in high definition at 60 frames per second.
Can you have multiple ESPN+ streams?
Plus, as a subscriber, you can pause, rewind, or restart anything you’re watching live through ESPN+.
Does ESPN+ have any ads?
You’ll get no display advertisements on ESPN+, and that includes no pre-roll or post-roll adverts. It’s essentially like YouTube Red, but for ESPN, though you will still see commercials when watching live events, of course.
Where is ESPN+ available?
ESPN+ is currently only available in the US.
Want to know more?
Check out the ESPN+ FAQ hub.