In 2021, ESPN finalized and announced in rapid-fire an unprecedented succession of progressive, landmark and long-term programming agreements with key rightsholders that place an emphasis on exclusivity and multi-platform distribution – while two others took effect – that strengthen its future given the proven power of live sports.
Significantly, all include a substantial forward-looking direct-to-consumer component via ESPN+ – which grew 66% in the fiscal year to 17.1 million homes – and rights across the Walt Disney Company enterprise, notably with ABC.
These developments represent a particularly robust flurry of growing ESPN’s sports rights portfolio. All are broad, lengthy and reflect the changing dynamic of television viewing habits while serving sports fans wherever they are.
“It has been an extremely productive and satisfying year for our pursuit of exclusive and premier content to fuel our businesses and serve sports fans across the platforms of The Walt Disney Company. We are driving value and maximizing revenue in parallel paths – the traditional ecosystem and the emerging direct-to-consumer future. We are investing in ESPN+ with compelling live events, studio shows and world-class original programming. Our strategy is to navigate the evolution of consumer choice, following the fan. As they continue to gravitate to digital and DTC, in these groundbreaking and innovative agreements we have the optionality we need. As always, our North Star is being there for the fan and creating shareholder value. We do that with innovation. Technology is our heritage at ESPN and at The Walt Disney Company and being at the front edge of the viewer’s experience is baked into our mission.
“At the same time, at ESPN we know that a critical element of our success is ensuring a culture of inclusion – valuing different perspectives, voices and ideas – so that we can continue making great content that appeals to a diverse and growing audience. It’s on every manager to create and cultivate an open, safe and caring environment, and we’re proud how leaders and employees alike are taking action and making a commitment to that kind of culture.”
Key statistics and developments that defined ESPN’s successes on a wide variety of fronts.
Media Contact: Dave Nagle ([email protected])