Hey, Disney might let you WatchESPN on your Apple TV one day... if you can already get WatchESPN on your TV!

Hey, you might be able to get WatchESPN if Disney decides you're entitled!

Walt Disney might possibly potentially think about considering putting their sports network's WatchESPN app on the Apple TV and letting us poor dumb users watch it, provided we authenticate with a right-and-proper... with a Pay TV account. Seriously. Bloomberg has the quote:

“We’re a platform-agnostic content company,” Bratches, the network’s executive vice president of affiliate and advertising sales, said today in an interview. “To the extent that in the future there’s an opportunity with Apple to authenticate through the pay-TV food chain as we’re doing with Microsoft, that’s something that we will participate in.”

Authenticate through the pay-TV food what-now?

Here's an idea. Just a crazy thought. You know, I'm totally spitballing here. HOW ABOUT JUST RELEASING THE APP AND LETTING CUSTOMERS SUBSCRIBE TO IT DIRECTLY.

Why make it be any more complicated than it has to be? Why make your users jump through hoops and keep them tied to legacy media delivery systems? The cable and other providers might be their customers now, but that won't be forever and the smarter, more future-thinking content providers, the ones who embrace the digital and mobile transition, are the ones that are going to benefit most.

Having to pay for cable to watch ESPN on your TV so you can authenticate to watch ESPN on your Apple TV is "food chain" that makes sense to precisely no one who's not entirely buried beneath what food becomes when it exists that chain.

Launching an app, subscribing, and watching where you want, when you want, on what you want is a simpler, cleaner, better experience.

That Disney of all companies doesn't understand that, and isn't embracing it, is sad. Though at least it does serve as a reminder that old media companies need to be replaced with new media companies that do understand it. And sooner rather than later.

Source: Bloomberg

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Hey, Disney might let you WatchESPN on your Apple TV one day... if you can already get WatchESPN on your TV!


It couldn't be that the majority of ESPN's income comes from the money per all cable subscribers (an industry high of $4.69 per subscriber, plus $1.13 for the rest of their channels), and they aren't apt to bite the hand that feeds them by going after what will be, at least initially a much smaller pie, right?

Easy solution: Disney could charge me directly for the same exact amount of money. I'd gladly pay for all of my channels a la carte so that the actual content providers still get their money.
Live sports are pretty much the ONLY reason I still have cable. If I could just get the ESPN Suite, NBC Sports, RedZone, and all the various live sporting events broadcast on other channels (maybe at $0.99 per game?), I would cancel FIOSTV services today, and never look back!
We need a sports version of Netflix for live sporting events and sports news... hmmmm...
Netflix + Sportflix FTW!

Many times these star networks are used as leverage by distributors to get cable and dish networks to package in other channels, so while $4.59 might be the direct sub fee, there's probably some other channel that you get as a result of having ESPN or ESPN3

Exactly. Plus, in a package, they get your $4.59 whether you watch ESPN(s) or not. Many people have no idea that they're paying for ESPN, and certainly don't know how much they're paying for it.
Realize that ESPN is BY FAR the most profitable division of the Walt Disney Corporation. Much bigger than movies, much bigger than theme parks, much bigger than ABC, much bigger than consumer products. Why would Disney risk any part of that?

As a Disney stock holder it sounds like a good idea to have a subscription through the WatchESPN App as this sounds like good business. Yet one also has to realize that ESPN brings in big money because they offer live TV which people are more likely to watch live than to record and thus add revenue is large, because most people like to watch live games. This is one of the reasons ESPN is essential to big cable companies and Disney is able to charge one of the highest rate in the industry. How valuable would ESPN be to Disney if it was not distributed through cable campaniles is the questions here, not that Disney is stupid and too slow to move. Make less for Disney and I am not happy as a stock holder.

Palehorse cannot cannot understand why ESPN will not let people just buy ESPN directly. You said you will dump fios if you could get ESPN separately. If networks go alacart then they will all lose, because other people who do not watch ESPN will not pay for it. I have no cable, but with uverse Internet I get espn3 for free.

This is exactly what's wrong with the current cable TV model. ESPN has content, but they aren't willing to sell me access to that content unless I go through cable or satellite and buy a much larger package with zillions of channels I won't watch. It's ridiculous.
I finally cancelled cable this year and am glad I did. What a waste. I'm saving $80 a month and the only thing I really miss is Monday Night Football.

This is still the dawn of true Internet/connected/al la carte tv. If I am not mistaken, on the Xbox, not only do you have to be a Verizon FiOS tv subscriber, you also have to have Verizon FiOS Internet. Both or you don't get full access.
I really think the content owners are using this time as a beta test. Get the service out there while they are still in contracts with cable/satellite providers. Get the bugs worked out. Then as it grows, they can begin to rely less on those providers. Eventually, cable/satellite providers will be out of the traditional tv business.

Please do not use my company's founder's name (Walt Disney) while using your news website to vent about an executive of my company. I'm a Cast Member and an avid Apple  user. Companies do need to keep up with the times. Walt himself created many of his most successful shows and products by daring to do what others had not before and inventing new solutions, such as the Multi Plane Camera.
However, much as we might clamor for innovation and new technology NOW, we also have to realize that the Walt Disney Company is a for-profit business, just like any other. Walt recognized this and PERHAPs current executives do not wish to risk cutting themselves off from distribution partners who provide most of their current revenue.
In Short - we are making lots of money right now and we need to make sure it is the correct decision before jeopardizing that valuable revenue stream. ALSO, do not blame Walt Disney or use his name. It is The Walt Disney Company if you want to incorporate his name OR just "Disney" is often used as slang. Personally, I would mention the whole company name, correctly, before shortening it or naming the business unit that is doing this, like ESPN.

WatchESPN actually carries a lot of events that aren't televised on any of their networks, or are only televised regionally, so even if you have a cable package with ESPN you can't always watch what you want on your TV. I'd be happy if they just allowed airplay from the app.