Apple could bring ESPN to iPhones and more via rumored partnership

ESPN on iPhone
(Image credit: ESPN)

Apple is being touted as the answer to Disney’s search for a partner for ESPN as it looks to take its sports content direct to consumers.

Apple is just one of a slew of tech giants that are thought to be potential partners for ESPN in a move that could accelerate the iPhone maker’s move into sporting content for its Apple TV app. The company already streams Major League Soccer and Friday Night Baseball, but doing deals piecemeal may be taking too long.

By joining forces with ESPN, Apple would immediately have access to contracts that allow live sports to be shown without having to do its own deals with respective rights holders.

The Big Igor factor 

Disney CEO Bob Iger is thought to be a potential key to any deal between ESPN and Apple. He was on Apple’s board previously and could help smooth over any deal that is to be done. The New York Post notes in a report detailing ESPN/Disney’s plans that Apple is notoriously difficult to deal with when doing deals of this kind.

As for timing, sources tell New York Post that ESPN will look to offer direct-to-consumer content as soon as 2025 and absolutely no later than 2026. If that’s the case we could see more sporting content via the Apple TV app on iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple TV devices within two years.

Bringing ESPN under the Apple TV banner would make lots of sense for Apple even beyond the deal-making angle. ESPN has the sports presentation experience and capacity that Apple simply doesn’t possess, the report notes.

“ESPN already has the most rights deals of any company, which could, in practice, speed up Apple’s timeline,” NYP adds. “And ESPN would be able to handle the live event and studio production, a division Apple does not currently have.”

Unsurprisingly, it isn’t expected any financial aspect of a partnership with ESPN wouldn’t be an issue. The report suggests that Disney would require around $5 billion in exchange for a 10% stake in the sports network.

As part of any deal, we can expect ESPN to become available in the Apple TV app on all manner of devices including the Apple TV 4K. There are of course tons of Apple TV 4K alternatives for those not looking to spend quite so much, too.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.