SBD/August 17, 2017/Media

ESPN Apple TV App Feature Allows Viewers To Stream Four Windows On One Screen

Pay TV subscribers who have ESPN, as well as the most recent version of Apple TV, can "try out a new version of the ESPN app that will let you watch up to four different streams on one screen," according to Peter Kafka of RECODE. Viewers can "select anything that ESPN is showing via the app -- both the 'real' ESPN programming as well as any digital-only streams they’re offering, and you can swap out different configurations pretty easily." This is not the "first app to use the 'multicast' feature in Apple TV -- there’s an MLB app, for instance, that lets you watch two screens at once." This version is "pretty slick" (RECODE.net, 8/16). ESPN Senior VP/Digital Product, Design & Audience Development Ryan Spoon said of the four-stream feature, "We want to take advantage of all the unique content we have, and make something only ESPN can do." VARIETY's Todd Spangler noted ESPN expects the feature to be "popular during college football Saturdays, as well as for events" like the CFP National Championship “megacast” and U.S. Open multicourt coverage. Spoon said that ESPN is "developing the MultiCast feature for other connected-TV devices but started with Apple TV first because 'Apple TV has capabilities to do this that other platforms don’t have.'" Down the road, ESPN is "thinking of using the other tiles in the MultiCast for content aside from video." For example, "playing in-game highlights, fantasy sports updates, alerts, scoreboards or social-media posts" (VARIETY.com, 8/16).

RAISING THE STAKES: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Paul Bond wrote with ESPN's planned streaming network, investors are "wondering first, if Disney will cannibalize its existing ESPN customers and second, whether this move by cable's most popular channel will hasten the demise of the cable TV bundle." Disney Chair & CEO Bob Iger's plan to launch two streaming channels -- one for family shows, another for ESPN -- "carries huge stakes for the media giant and the future of the cable bundle itself." Sanford C. Bernstein media analyst Todd Juenger said, "It's a very slippery slope from there to a true, full-blown network substitute. Disney could pull that switch any time. What do you do now if you're Discovery, Viacom, AMC Networks, Fox or anybody?" Juenger "envisions the big pay TV providers like Comcast and DirecTV playing ball with Disney, but the smaller ones may take this as a final-straw chance to exit the business entirely." Disney "appears to be between a rock and a hard place with ESPN: The network remains a cash cow, but its growth has been reversed." Disney's revenue from cable networks, the majority of which comes from ESPN, in FY '17 is "expected to be" about $16.6B, about 30% of the conglomerate's total revenue. Consultancy firm Magid Associates Senior VP Mike Bloxham said, "The general sports space is wide open for a major player, and there's no bigger brand than ESPN. If anyone is going to succeed in becoming the Netflix of the sports category, it is ESPN" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 8/16). VARIETY's Cynthia Littleton noted more than any other media giant, Disney is "endowed with a corporate brand name that means something to consumers." The goodwill the Disney moniker brings is the "foundation of the Mouse’s bold attempt to challenge Netflix at its own game." But as much as Disney sees a "chance to capitalize on its unique position, the company has also been under more pressure than any of its media peers to make a big move to combat the steady drumbeat of negative news surrounding" ESPN (VARIETY.com, 8/16).
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