Broadband Soccer for All! Comcast, Disney Make Nice With ESPN360 Pact.
Comcast and Disney didn’t see eye-to-eye over the latter’s decision to join Hulu last month. But they’re still able to work together on other online video projects. Hence today’s announcement that ESPN, the Disney-owned sports behemoth, will be offering its streaming video service to 17 million Comcast broadband subs.
The announcement means that ESPN360.com, which lets you watch all sorts of live sports, whether or not the flagship ESPN channel is broadcasting them, will be available to 41 million homes “in time for college football season.” It’s already available via a host of ISPs, including AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ), but not, alas, Time Warner Cable (TWC), which has made it very hard for me to watch the UEFA Champions League games.
It’s worth noting that this is one of the reasons that ESPN wasn’t included in Disney’s Hulu deal. Cable providers pay huge fees to get access to the channel, and there’s no way Disney (DIS) is going to jeopardize that by letting people watch the same stuff for free on Hulu. But if the subs are already paying for it–the tab works about to be something like $3 per subscriber, whether they watch ESPN or not–then giving them online access as well seems to be OK.
Worth noting is that this arrangement–whereby subscribers to a particular ISP get access to online video, but the general public doesn’t–is exactly what both Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner (TWX) are talking about with their various “authentication” plans. The difference is a slight one: The content guys are proposing that their online video will be made available to cable subscribers instead of broadband subscribers, but it’s essentially the same thing. So if you’re wondering how that will work–the Comcast and Time Warner plans, which are supposed to roll out this year, will be trialed very, very slowly–take a look at ESPN360. If you can.