The big news yesterday in sports was that ESPN announced the launch date for its new over-the-top streaming service, ESPN+, which will hit the interwebs on April 12 for a price of $4.99 a month.
Now, the outrage around this service is that ESPN already offers a similar viewing experience with ESPN3, which is provided by whoever provides your internet, and gives people like me, who went to a smaller D1 college, a chance to see all of their games in sports like football, men’s and women’s basketball, and even volleyball and wrestling.
But ESPN aims to make the $4.99 price worth it by offering more options, including premium events like MLB games, NHL games, the entire MLS schedule that isn’t on national TV, rugby, cricket, boxing, tennis, golf, and more college sports.
So is the $4.99 price tag worth what you’re getting from this new service?
For MLB and NHL fans, the answer is maybe. You’re getting one game per day from those leagues, and if it’s the local team you would normally get on cable, it will be blacked out in your area. So while ESPN+ advertises more than 180 games for each league, you’re not getting those games, but still, $5 a month for an MLB and NHL game a day, or pretty close, isn’t a bad deal, especially when you consider all the other stuff that comes with it.
The biggest winners in this new venture are soccer fans, specifically those of MLS. The MLS streaming package is around $80 for the season, and now ESPN+ takes over at $60 for an entire year that gives you every out-of-market MLS game that isn’t on TV, plus all the other offerings, for $20 less than just the MLS package. That’s a big win.
But another thing to consider in all this is this new service DOES NOT include ESPN’s regular programming that you see on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, or ESPNews. So if you were thinking this was a way to get those channels without signing up for some sort of cable, you’re our of luck.
But where I begin to wonder if this cost is worth it depends on what happens to ESPN3 and all those college football and basketball games you got for free in the past.
Some sites have reported that ESPN+ will basically cannibalize some of its ESPN3 content and move it to ESPN+. If I had to guess based on reading between the extremely blurry lines, and very few concrete details regarding that content, that would likely mean that for mid-major schools and conferences, your football and basketball games are likely moving from ESPN3 to ESPN+ to try to get your to pony up that $4.99 each month. Leaving ESPN3 for the niche stuff like baseball, softball, gymnastics, soccer, or whatever other non-revenue college sports your university or conference may show.
It would be a bit like when newspapers first started putting all of their content online for free, and then realized that people weren’t buying newspapers because of it. It’s tough to stomach having to pay for something, when you had gotten it free for so long, like ESPN3 is.
And there’s the rub. If you’re someone wanting more sports content without cable, this is a good deal, $4.99 a month for more MLB, NHL, golf, soccer, and other sports is worth it, especially if you’re a fan of MLS. But for folks like me who really only utilized ESPN3 to watch my school’s football and basketball games, it’s a tough choice. Yes, $5 a month for 12 football games, and 50+ men’s and women’s basketball games is a fair price, but I used to get it for free, and now I suddenly have to pay.
So on the surface, yes this is a good deal and a more than fair price, but it also stinks for people who used to get this stuff free on ESPN3, and will now be forced to pay to watch their school.