On August 23, the price of ESPN+ will jump from $6.99 to $9.99 per month, and the annual plan is going up from $69.99 to $99.99. The steep 43% increase is the second subscription price hike in a little more than a year.
The company confirmed the news to TechCrunch and said that subscribers will be notified in an official email next week.
The “Disney Bundle,” which encompasses ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu, will not see a price increase. Subscribers with the bundle pay $13.99 per month for Hulu with ads or $19.99 without ads.
Also, the price tag for the UFC pay-per-view events, which are exclusive to ESPN+ subscribers, will remain the same. UFC raised the rates for these events in January 2021.
Given the recent introduction of many live events on the Disney-backed sports streaming service due to new contracts with the National Hockey League (NHL) and PGA Tour, among others, ESPN+’s rate increase could give the company new revenue to offset the costs. In total, ESPN+ offers over 22,000 live events.
It was only a matter of time before the expensive investment in live sports rights would be passed on to consumers.
“The change reflects the significantly increased scope, scale and value of ESPN+ as we continue to add significantly to both live sports and original programs and series, and it is part of an established plan to ensure ESPN+ is a profitable and strong long-term business,” the company told TechCrunch.
In January, the sports streamer became the home of PGA Tour Live. Initially, PGA Tour Live, the golf package provided by the Professional Golfers' Association, was priced at $9.99 per month. It is now a part of the ESPN+ subscription and the streaming service expanded its coverage hours by three times, Disney said.
Last year, ESPN+ added over 75 exclusive NHL games that don’t air on linear TV, along with the entire NHL out-of-market package of over 1,000 games. Formerly known as NHL.TV, the package used to cost $24.99 per month.
The streaming service also added expanded National Football League (NFL) rights, LaLiga, Premier Lacrosse League, National Lacrosse League, college sports such as SEC (Southeastern Conference) and Big 12, as well as expanded rights to Wimbledon and the Australian Open. The company also renewed rights for the FA (Football Association Challenge) Cup and Major League Baseball. ESPN+ will stream its first exclusive NFL game later this year.
ESPN+ also carries MLS Live, Major League Soccer’s out-of-market package. However, this will no longer be the case as Apple announced a deal to broadcast all MLS games for 10 years beginning in 2023. The content makes up a significant portion of ESPN+’s summer offerings and will be a substantial blow to the streaming service. It is important to note that linear ESPN could maintain some portion of the traditional MLS broadcast rights.
In July 2021, ESPN+ announced a price hike, raising the monthly price from $5.99 to $6.99.
ESPN+ has always been considerably cheaper than its sports streaming competitors. Rival DAZN, known for its boxing content, charges $19.99 monthly. A new streaming offering from regional sports cable network NESN (New England Sports Network) costs $29.99 monthly for Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins games. Sinclair’s Bally Sports app is $19.99 a month, or $189.99 a year.
For its second fiscal quarter of 2022, Disney reported that ESPN+ had added one million subscribers, growing its subscriber base to 22.3 million, up 62% year over year.