FuboTV Finally Locks Down ESPN

Disney carriage deal also adds ABC, Disney Channel, FX and other channels to start-up virtual MVPD’s programming grid

Virtual pay TV service fuboTV has, since its launch five years ago, billed itself as the OTT destination for live sports. But the glaring problem has always been its lack of carriage of ESPN, which of course, controls the lion’s share of major sports league rights in the U.S.

That all changed Wednesday, with fuboTV’s announcement of its first carriage agreement with the Walt Disney Company.

The deal will not only add ESPN, ESPN 2 and ESPN 3 to fuboTV’s program guide, but regional sports channels SEC Network and ACC Network in relevant markets. The addition of ABC now means fuboTV has all of the Big Four Broadcast networks. And the vMVPD has also added ABC News Live, Disney Chanel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FX, FXX and National Geographic.

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Disney-owned networks that will be available through add-on packages include out-of-market access to SEC Network and ACC Network, as well as ESPN U, ESPN News, ESPN Deportes, FXM, Fox Life, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo and BabyTV.

The channels will be available to fuboTV subscribers starting “this summer,” a company press release said. The Disney deal includes both live-linear and VOD rights.

It’s unclear as to how many of the main Disney channels will be available in fuboTV’s $60-a-month “Family” base tier, which currently includes 105 channels (although you’d expect the ESPN flagship, ABC, Disney Channel and FX to go into that base offering). The $80-a-month “Ultra” package currently features 176 channels and represents the service’s premium offering.

“Launching Disney’s networks strengthens our sports-focused live TV platform and brings a diverse range of content for the entire family,” said Ben Grad, head of content strategy and acquisition for fuboTV, in a not-that-reveling statement. “Our base package offers consumers significant value, while consumers who want even more great sports and entertainment content can access it with our premium packages.”

It’s also unclear as to how soon fuboTV will now have to initiate its next major price bump. This program licensing deal couldn’t have been cheap.

FuboTV touts that it now has 100% coverage of the NFL’s U.S. national broadcast licensing partners, with ESPN, CBS, FOX, NBC, NFL Network and NFL Redzone all on the grid. And it also said that it was more U.S. and international soccer access than any other streaming service, with ESPN and ESPN Deportes being added to the beIN Sports portfolio of networks, along with CBS, FOX, NBC, TUDN and Univision.

New York startup fuboTV merged with publicly traded company FaceBank in early April. The combined company said in May that fuboTV revenue jumped 96% to $147 million in 2019. In addition to operating its virtual MVPD, fuboTV is also trying to establish a 24/7 sports network that runs across OTT platforms, the Fubo Sports Network.

“With the addition to our lineup of the ESPN suite of channels, we continue to make good on our promise to sports fans to be the undisputed home of professional and college sports,” said David Gandler, co-founder and CEO of fuboTV, in a statement. “Fubo is equally delighted to add the storied Disney, ABC, FX and Nat Geo networks to round out a robust programming portfolio for the whole family to enjoy.”

Added Sean Breen, executive VP of platform distribution for Disney Media Networks: “Adding Disney’s array of networks across news, sports and entertainment content with ABC, Disney Channel, ESPN, FX, and Nat Geo delivers a more comprehensive channel lineup and tremendous value to customers’ subscriptions. With fuboTV’s multiple access points across all major streaming platforms and a competitive price point, we continue to serve a growing audience that consumes video on multiple screens and attract new customers into the pay TV ecosystem.”