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ESPN+ dominates soccer; the numbers behind its success

ESPN+ dominates the soccer media landscape in the United States. And, frankly, it is not really up for discussion.

Since launching as a paid-streaming service in April 2018, ESPN+ features more coverage, more competitions and more simplicity than its competitors. In a time when streaming is the most common way to access a number of games, ESPN+ leads the way. ESPN+’s dominance in soccer follows a similar trajectory to the growth in popularity of the sport as a whole. Albeit, ESPN+ is significantly younger than soccer and welcomed a meteoric rise since its launch.

At that time, ESPN used its paid streaming service primarily for overflow content. Niche audiences that followed college sports, boxing and less-popular sports in the U.S. like rugby used ESPN+ as a new vehicle. However, soccer was also a key part of ESPN+ when it started up. A strong contingent of MLS, USL, Serie A and Eredivisie were a few examples of ESPN+’s original soccer content.

Speaking exclusively to World Soccer Talk, ESPN Vice President Programming and Acquisitions of Digital Media John Lasker says soccer has always held importance for ESPN+.

“We knew it was a key category for us, at ESPN overall, to expand our reach to new and more expanded audiences in ways that we were not able to do from just the linear perspective.”

ESPN+ by the numbers

Given that soccer has been a major priority for ESPN+, the stand-out metrics for 2021 are:

  1. ESPN+ streamed more than 22,000 total live events

    Of those, 5,400 were soccer matches

    The busiest day of 2021 had 152 live events that streamed

    The year 2021 featured more than 1,030 hours of soccer-focused studio shoulder programming, including news shows such as ESPN FC

ESPN+ has been quick to jump on the opportunity to get other assets. On one hand, CBS and Paramount+ took over the American rights to broadcast Serie A. At the same time, ESPN+ started airing Bundesliga and LaLiga fixtures to go along with its coverage. Therefore, ESPN+ owned the rights to major leagues in Spain and Germany, as well as cup competitions in those countries as well as the FA Cup in England.

READ MORE: How to watch soccer via ESPN+.

ESPN+ dominates soccer in 2021

This past year welcomed many soccer competitions that did not happen in 2020. Leagues and Cups from across the world picked back up, but we also saw a number of tournaments. Particularly the Copa America and Euros, both scheduled for 2020, arrived a year late.

While ESPN did hold the rights to Euro 2020, the entire schedule of fixtures aired on ESPN or ESPN2 rather than ESPN+. Still, ESPN+ dominated soccer coverage in a number of other ways.

A bulk of content served as the perfect opportunity for ESPN+ to up its content. In the same year that the media conglomerate acquired the rights to the National Hockey League, LaLiga joined the action.

Continued growth

Lasker is aiming for ESPN+’s dominance in soccer to continue to grow.

“We’re not done. The opportunity and the benefit that we have with ESPN+ and its relative infinite capacity is we can continue to add and continue to serve without taking away from the existing commitments we made.

“We are really proud of what we’ve done here. Being able to utilize the technology and the subscription platform of ESPN+ to expand ESPN’s reach to serve more sports fans. And, we are particularly proud of the soccer product that we put out there.”

ESPN+ dominates soccer based on quality and quantity. For the biggest soccer fans, the exclusive access to major competitions like the Bundesliga, LaLiga and FA Cup make the subscription service practically essential.

Therefore, it is no surprise that ESPN+’s subscriber count went from 1.4 million in the first fiscal quarter of 2019 to 17.1 million subscribers at the end of 2021. There are a number of reasons for that massive jump over three years.

However, the continued expansion of ESPN+‘s soccer coverage is among the biggest factors.

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  1. JP

    January 15, 2022 at 11:20 pm

    @MichaelF, congrats on that big Buffalo win, obviously by far the better team. TD on every drive!
    I’m a Buffalo fan for the rest of the playoffs unless they meet Mr Brady in the big game.

  2. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 2:28 pm

    @greg LOL.

    @Ra Good point on that. The NFL is famous for it. More important to build a stadium for use of 8 games out of the year than to fund for hospitals in need or fix roads that take a beating in the winter months. Mixed up priorities.

  3. Ra

    January 14, 2022 at 2:14 pm

    @Michael F “Is it really any different anywhere else? Not really. It’s always about the money.” Yes, it is absolutely different. I wouldn’t mind them building a new stadium in Mars if it wasn’t for the use of public money.

  4. greg

    January 14, 2022 at 2:13 pm

    Wait, am I in the wrong football website? 🙂

  5. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 1:44 pm

    @JP Thanks!

    Its probably another reason why I like following an alternative sport and league closely like the EPL. I can completely detach any real emotions when watching Liverpool vs Man City and just fully enjoy it – even though i might favor one club over the other. When watching your local team, you tend to get to get high blood pressure and the worry of ulcers.

  6. JP

    January 14, 2022 at 1:38 pm

    @MichealF, “So much of the fun is in the journey.”

    100% agree. The 1994 Patriots season that ended in a wildcard loss in Cleveland (to Belichick no less!) was more enjoyable than the 2018 Super Bowl season, which was mostly joyless aside from the OT win over KC in the AFC Championship.
    That’s just one that comes to mind. The best is when the two (fun season + winning) come together. 2003 and 2014 was the pinnacle of that for the Patriots in my opinion.

    Hope you get their with the Bills soon!

  7. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    @Turfit I know what you’re saying but I don’t think it happen with the Bills moving. We have very committed ownership to build a new stadium. He is a huge Buffalo sports growing up and just so happen to strike it rich in the oil business. His judgments and decision making over the years with the two sports teams (Bills and Sabres) can be questioned at times (call them rookie ownership mistakes), but he eventually found the right leadership with the Bills.

    It is sad that the NFL has become such a massive cash cow filled with some excessively greedy owners that it becomes too big for some smaller markets that had a great tradition of history (Oakland, St Louis, San Diego, etc). But when these owners that are not as committed to local fan base and area – see how they can make out with a multi-billion $ new stadium in a glittering bigger market… they usually will follow the money.

    Is it really any different anywhere else? Not really. It’s always about the money.

  8. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 1:26 pm

    @JP Yes, I do imagine non Bills fans got sick of that repeated run to the super bowl. The best fan sign at the last AFC Championship game in Buffalo in that run was “We’re Back! Deal with it America!”

    It never bothered me that those other fans laughed at us for getting beat in the big game 4 years in a row. I fully enjoyed the ride to get there every year. So much of the fun is in the journey. That was an unbelievable ride. I know to some degree how it must feel to be a Patriots fan over the last two decades. Except you had a good ending most of the time.

  9. JP

    January 14, 2022 at 12:35 pm

    @MichaelF, those Bills teams were a ton of fun to watch. Only got tired of them around 1993 so can’t imagine what non Pats fans had to deal with. On behalf of all the fans who only knew the good times and act like they invented football, I sincerely apologize. Hearing them sometimes made me hate Pats fans lol.

  10. Turfit

    January 14, 2022 at 12:30 pm

    @Michael F, When Buffalo move to Austin, will they be called to Austin Buffalo or Austin Bills? Which this comment brings up another issue with US sports,

  11. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 12:16 pm

    @JP Agree. What amazed me about Brady is how it seemed to come out of nowhere. Not many really saw that coming as a 6th round draft pick from Michigan. Only glimpses of that from his college days. With Montana, you knew the Niners had something special as he showed more of it in Notre Dame or at least many more saw that clutch gene (as you call it) from his college days.

    As good as Marino was, he never could beat our Bills in the Jim Kelly era. We all enjoyed that.

  12. JP

    January 14, 2022 at 12:09 pm

    @MichealF. Montana is my #2. Just like Brady, it wasn’t necessarily his athletic gifts, but mental abilities and that unquantifiable “clutch” gene. We saw that in Brady from the start and continued throughout. In the early days he was the Montana to Manning’s Marino. Winner vs the physically gifted choker 🙂

  13. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 12:05 pm

    @JP As a further comment… I can certainly imagine Elway or Marino in today’s game. They would be dominant. You and I are on the same page regarding this topic. Elway could move and had an unreal arm, making plays that defies logic and Marino’s quick release is still the best I’ve ever seen.

  14. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 12:00 pm

    @JP That is very true. Rule changes have definitely shifted the game to favor the offenses and the QB. It’s why I hesitate to say Brady is the G.O.A.T… altho there is definitely an argument to say he is. Every era is different, but I firmly believe that Joe Montana was unbelievable as well, and yet played in an era that had ferocious defenses that did not let up on a QB when they hit him, and receivers had to keep their head up when running routes or it will be taken off (see Ronnie Lott or Mike Singletary). It is a much different game that Brady is playing in today than in the ’80’s.

  15. JP

    January 14, 2022 at 11:55 am

    *shift in 2004 not 2014

  16. greg

    January 14, 2022 at 11:55 am

    @JP – “Capitalism” and “free market” are empty terms. Countries like the US & UK purport to be capitalist but they are in reality oligarchies…economic power & wealth is concentrated in a few hands and policy flows from that. The “socialism” of US sports leagues is just a cover to protect investment and guarantee that even the worst performers won’t get booted from the top leagues. It’s a protected oligarchy, a gated community, like much industry and commerce in the US and UK.

    The EPL effectively acts as an oligarchy with the top clubs able to keep more revenue, get access to the lucrative UCL, use that money to cement their place. Any threat to the order is quashed by means of rule changes to keep more gate receipts & more tv money in the hands of the big clubs.

  17. JP

    January 14, 2022 at 11:54 am

    @MichaelF. Better QB’s or over 15 years of rule changes to favor offense over defense? The shift for me came in 2014 with the “illegal” contact that results in an automatic 1st down no matter how minimal or far away from the action. Also part of the reason have been losing interest in the NFL. Was still very invested just because of Brady and later to see how his story ends…actually thought 2016 would’ve been perfect.

    You can still tell who are the truly good QB’s and which are just average but put up good numbers because of the changing game. Even Tom Brady, as great as he is, didn’t put up crazy numbers until after the post 2004 shift. Could still see he was great before, just the numbers not as impressive in hindsight. Imagine Elway or Marino in today’s NFL!!

  18. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 11:47 am

    @JP you got it. At least the NFL has now seen many more teams with competent decent quarterbacking. It’s now a passer’s league and has been for the last two decades – but so many teams years ago didn’t have good quarterbacking! It was like that transition of option play QBs from college really struggled to transition to NFL and couldn’t read defenses if their life dependent on it.

    This NFL season has been one of the better ones in recent memory with many playoff teams having the good balance of a good QB with solid cast to potentially go deep into postseason.

  19. JP

    January 14, 2022 at 11:43 am

    @MichealF, BUFFALO!!! Playing my Pats tomorrow night who had the fortune of having the best QB in NFL history for TWO decades. I’m old enough to remember the dark days of the late 80’s and early 90’s so thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the ride.

    Now don’t care as much, actually like your team and won’t be sad if NE loses. Become indifferent after that long stretch of success. Everything has been gravy since 2016’s miracle comeback/Atlanta’s historic collapse.

  20. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 11:41 am

    @JP The other reason my local NFL team couldn’t make the playoffs in almost two decades is because the division rival had the best QB of this era and maybe of all time and one of the best coaches in any era. That should give it away.

  21. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 11:36 am

    @JP I totally agree with you on the first paragraph of your second to last post. I should know… I watch my local pro football miss the playoffs for almost two decades because they couldn’t obtain that franchise QB. Now they are a super bowl contender and should be in position for years to come. Guess which team?

  22. JP

    January 14, 2022 at 11:05 am

    @Ra, our society is more capitalistic than Europe but our professional sports are more socialist, go figure.

  23. Ra

    January 14, 2022 at 10:54 am

    @Michael F @JP Never quite understood why college drafts are even legal. Why would they be bound by what team got the right to choose as if they were cattle in a farm show? Being a free, capitalist society – should they not be able to sign with whatever team by whatever salary they would like? It is a huge contradiction.
    Don’t even get me started on college sports…let me just say – let them have a salary and pay for their own f* tuition. We should not be meddling education with professional sports…

  24. JP

    January 14, 2022 at 10:45 am

    @MichaelF, in theory they’re all on an equal footing because of salary cap. In practice, not so much and it’s not always because of bad management. In the NFL it’s QB dependant. Have a good one, covers for holes in the roster or bad defense. Have an outstanding roster and average QB, in the hunt but still not the “favorite”. Tennessee this year fits the latter description.

    NBA it all depends on where the stars want to join forces, which is usually the same rotating big markets. Well run NBA franchises in small markets need to strike while the iron is hot of having young talent under team control before the clock strikes midnight. Milwaukee did, and can still argue they had a lot of luck in terms of Brooklyn’s super team having injuries.

    At least in Euro soccer, teams can cash in on their young talent to go out and buy replacements. In American sports it’s either watch them leave in free agency and get nothing, or trade them for a package of draft picks you hope pan out.

  25. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 10:19 am

    @JP Your comment is somewhat accurate, but every team in american pro sports (aside from MLB) has a well balanced equal shot at competing for the league trophy every season because of a salary cap structure and revenue sharing. What separates the good teams from the bad is good management, descision making and coaching. NOT money.

    You cannot say that at all about the Euro soccer leagues. And the only thing that keeps fans of all the clubs interested… is they all have something to play for in a different way… i.e. avoid relegation, play for Europa, make top 4 for CL etc… play for domestic cups.

  26. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 10:14 am

    @Ra I will add that what I really enjoy, despite the disparity of talent and money from the top to bottom table clubs in Euro soccer leagues… is that every club always has something to play and so much to lose. Every match is important from top to bottom.

    In American pro sports, by mid to late season… you know who is a contender and who is not. And some leagues have a real problem with teams tanking so as to rebuild with high draft picks (MLB particularly, NHL somewhat, maybe NBA which I don’t follow). So for fans of these teams, so many games don’t mean anything and its tough to stay interested. I don’t see this occurring as much in the NFL, as they play so fewer games in a season.

  27. JP

    January 14, 2022 at 10:13 am

    @MichaelF, I would argue the ‘parity’ we see in American sports is overstated. Yes, we don’t have the same 1-2 teams winning the title for close to a decade, but the number of teams who have a real chance of winning in any given year is small. We often know who these teams are before the season begins. NHL has the most true parity, get genuine surprises some seasons, but even then, there’s a handful of teams who you know are in the hunt every year and another 15+ who shouldn’t even bother showing up.

  28. Michael F

    January 14, 2022 at 9:56 am

    @Ra Very true. But there are few reasons why euro soccer, the CL and especially the EPL specifically intrigues me.
    1) I want to see best possible level of talent and league play on stage. That’s true in all sports I follow.
    2) I grew up with American sports and its refreshing to see a completely different structure that is nothing like here. Promotion, relegation and all the table positioning for further competitions is very different. I wouldn’t say its better or worse, just different. There are pros and cons to European league structure and American sports leagues with drafts. I don’t need to go into too much here, you know the pros and cons. There is disparity for one and parity for the other. There is relegation for one that loses, and reward for the other that loses (top draft picks) etc.
    3) I love the atmosphere and culture of the Premier League. Very intimate and personal venues, with some incredible history behind it. Reminds me some of college football here.

  29. Ra

    January 14, 2022 at 8:39 am

    @Michael F. Yet you watch the Euro soccer leagues when you could be watching Am Pro Leagues and MLS. This seems counter-intuitive.
    Caps and forced parity are there to benefit owners, as they can limit their investment while driving ticket prices and revenues up. And college drafts seem more like a modern slave market. Great for owners, not for players.
    I would like to see a cap on ticket prices instead.

  30. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    @Mercator You sure are ready to come with a gun to fire-a-blazin on this topic in replies. This should kind of be a fun topic. You might be taking this a little too seriously.

    That said, if I have time, I might send the surprising score results so far this season from the EPL.

    I will say this… the euro soccer leagues are nowhere NEAR the competitiveness of American Pro sports leagues… for obvious reasons. The disparity of top clubs (vs other clubs ) that out spend the lower spending clubs on a budget is just plain crazy. I am not suggesting salary caps, but its over the top and money DOES buy championships in these leagues. When I hear Klopp or Pep whine that they want 5 substitutions in EPL, it makes me shake my head. Don’t they already have enough of an advantage with their starting 11? Let’s bring out the next fully rested superstar off the bench to run circles around some 18 year old kid from Brentford squad that is subbing in for the first time in the big league.

    Thankfully… most soccer clubs have something to always play for (win the league, make the top 4 for CL, play for Europa spot, avoid relegation etc). That is what keeps things interesting.
    But honestly.. competitively… it still is incredibly out-of-balance when compared to other sports here (only comparable to Division 1A college football landscape!).

  31. Mercator

    January 13, 2022 at 8:02 pm

    @Michael F – Kaiserlauten won the Bundesliga after being newly promoted. Lille just beat PSG with a squad worth 1/4th of PSG’s. I still think Leicester’s is the biggest surprise of them all, but miracles can happen anywhere and to draw one out from 7 years ago to justify the current competitiveness of the EPL makes no sense. It’s like me saying the EPL is the best in the world because Arsenal went undefeated back in 03/04 – it’s irrelevant to the present. EPL was much more competitive even 3 years ago, but with City and Chelsea and the pandemic, they have run away with it. Anyone can win of course, but you can say that about literally any league.

  32. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 7:42 pm

    @Mercator. Leicester City won in Shocking fashion in 2015. 🙂 Has anything come anywhere close to that result as a surprise in the last few decades?

  33. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 7:36 pm

    @Hans I have the Athletic as a yearly sub that ends this March. I will probably renew as I can’t see it drastically changing this soon. I have truly enjoyed the Athletic since I subscribed.

  34. Hans

    January 13, 2022 at 6:53 pm

    “At least you didn’t cherry pick a quote from a lengthy article just to suit your one sided slant on everything.”
    The NY Times article ended with my last quote unless I would pay for a subscription, so I just quoted what the were displaying for free because the eye catching phrase “Cable TV is the new…” you get the rest.
    Set a reminder for end of April to cancel the Athletic sub since NY Times owns them now.

  35. Mercator

    January 13, 2022 at 4:42 pm

    @Michael F – I watch quite a bit, even non arsenal matches. I would love to have your rundown of the scores – in my view there has been a trend to the strong getting stronger and the weak getting weaker. Norwich and Watford are poor, Newcastle is also well out of its class. It wasn’t like this a few years ago (or if it was there was 1 bottom dweller and not 3+). FYI, this isn’t to say the bottom and mid table clubs won’t win, I just don’t think its any more frequent than in the BL or La Liga. These are very competitive leagues as well, Bayern just got smacked!

    I think you are a bit confused. It would be a SHOCK for anyone but Chelsea, City or Pool to win. Anyone could have told you this before the season. It’s no different than La Liga, where you know one of 3 clubs will win. Right now City will win the league, they are further ahead than Bayern. It’s over. EPL isn’t anymore competitive at the top than these other leagues which are wrapped up by Xmas. Don’t get me wrong I lament this new trend – one of the best things about the EPL was the competition at the top. Now, it’s just the two richest teams (Chelsea/City) and one team which is very well managed, just like La Liga (Barca/Real and then Simeone at Atletico).

    Pep says every league he plays in is the most competitive, every club he plays in is the best in the world, every new player he gets is an outstanding talent. Bayern manager also plays the PR game and says his opponents are very tough and victory is never assured. Okay sure, I don’t buy that PR nonsense though, I watch the matches. Now when I see Watford Liverpool or Chelsea Norwich, I just know a beating is coming. a few years ago I would tune in and root for the underdog because I thought they had a shot… now its great if they just keep it competitive. Chelsea/City are doing to the PL exactly what Bayern, PSG, Madrid, Barca have done to theirs. And yes kudos to newly promoted teams like Brentford who handle their own…this happens in every other Top 5 league though as well.

  36. Ra

    January 13, 2022 at 4:21 pm

    @Michael F. We are all here discussing whose girlfriend is the prettiest… 🙂
    Unlike City and some other, Bayern did not became the powerhouse they are today by selling their soul to the devil. They are still a fan-owned team.
    Of course Guardiola would say that – money buys everything, even true love…

  37. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    @Mercator Just ask Pep Guardiola himself and he’ll tell you definitively that the EPL is the most competitive league. He has said so numerous times.

  38. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    And btw… I don’t mean any disrespect for the other top euro domestic leagues. Forgive me if I have done so. There is no doubt plenty of talent and competition within these other leagues. Azer provided a commentary of the seasonal winner of these leagues, and I responded.

    Man City certainly dominating the league in a sense recently. They do out spend the rest, but this dominance has been NOTHING like Bayern Munich… which would be the SHOCK of all SHOCKERS if someone else won the Bundesliga.

    That is not the case at all in the EPL if another club aside from Man City won it. And soon, there will be another club (NewCastle) that could out spend Man City.

  39. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 4:00 pm

    @Mercator Do I need to also provide you proof with scores from this EPL season? There are plenty.

  40. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 3:57 pm

    @Mercator It’s obvious you don’t watch the EPL matches except Arsenal or follow the league as closely. I follow and watch a great deal of all matches.

    Yes of course, Norwich doesn’t belong, and you mentioned Watford as being a weak entry… but you can’t tell me that newly promoted Brentford or Crystal Palace or Wolverhampton or West Ham or Brighton or Aston Villa or Leicester don’t provide a challenge and trouble for the top tier clubs. Upsets have abounded by all of these in the first half of the season, where top tier clubs have been the victim. I just rattled off most of the mid-table to lower tier table EPL clubs.

  41. Mercator

    January 13, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Michael F – lol what the PL title race is GONE this year, City has it wrapped up more than Bayern. City being the team that has massively outspent everyone for a decade, so not suprising. Yes, maybe Chelsea could win on any given year (another team that based on their spending should win in any given year) and Liverpool has assembled a good team this year. Frankly, it’s not that competitive at the top, its really 2 clubs maybe 3, which isn’t any different than La Liga. I don’t know what you mean competitive top to bottom, the last 2 years we have seen much more Liverpool 4 Watford 0 type situations. Norwich is clearly a step below the league. I just think you are caught up in the marketing, I don’t think lately it has been much better top to bottom than Bundesliga or La Liga. City and Chelsea will smash you and run off with the title before dropping another £100m in the transfer market. This is basically La Liga. This isn’t to say there is something wrong with the EPL, I just don’t think you give the other big euro leagues much credit when in fact Bundesliga and La Liga are about as competitive as the EPL right now (I.e. no real title race and the bottom teams aren’t reasonably going to beat the top clubs). Italy is really the only one a stop above in competition terms right now.

  42. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 12:38 pm

    @Ra That is true. There is a LOT to play for and money on the line for many clubs near the top and the bottom of the table, every season.

  43. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 12:34 pm

    @Azer You bring up an excellent point. I am not so sure fans could deep dive into a league where there is no drama at the top on who will win the league.

    I think that’s what made Serie A so captivating last season, since it wasn’t Juventus again.

    You could argue that Manchester City is taking some of the drama away by leading the pack in the Premier League in recent seasons, but the sole reason is not that they have significantly more elite talent on their club vs the other top clubs (i.e. Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United etc). It’s because Pep Guardiola really has no equal as an elite coach, and this is coming from someone who is not a Man City fan. How Pep finds a way to win as consistently as he does with no true elite striker is amazing. And yes, I know they have the depth… but he has players that don’t even perform well this season (ie Grealish) and he still wins.

    That said, the Premier League is easily one of the most competitive domestic leagues from top to bottom where almost any club can upset the top clubs and do so at times. If the top clubs are not playing their best, they are in for a battle vs the lower tier table clubs. And the relegation battle is always fierce and lively with more than a few clubs not totally safe till near the end of the season.

  44. Ra

    January 13, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    @Azer I disagree. The title is not the only thing they fight for. UCL, Europa, conference, and relegation add huge drama. In the Brasileirao that just ended, the fight not to be relegated was way more interesting than the fight for the title.
    I also prefer to watch matches that I don’t really support either side. It allows me to concentrate on the match, rather than the rollercoaster that is to be emotionally invested in only one outcome. I enjoy also David vs Goliath battles. A very level playing field has its very own disadvantages. There is no ‘the guy’ to be beaten. You really have to be invested in this kind of sport to get to know the storylines with so many different, nothing special, actors.
    Btw, in terms of numbers, ManCity leads by 10 while Bayern leads by two. The 5-0 of Mochengladbach vs Bayern was so bizarre.

  45. Azer

    January 13, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    Let’s be honest about something. ESPN+ has rights to 2 top leagues where the winner is known before the ball starts rolling. I say this as a big Bundesliga fan, but honesty comes first. It is painful to a watch a league where your team always fights for 2nd place. FC Bayern Munchen will always be on top, they’ll never be 2nd. As for La Liga, FC Barcelona is doing poor this season, but Real Madrid is on top. Do you see the point? Right now, the Premier League and Serie A are the only leagues worth watching and those 2 are not on ESPN+. Unless you like to watch the EFL Championship and the Eredivisie, I wonder if ESPN+ is worth it.

  46. Ra

    January 13, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    @Chris Curious on the full interview. Any plans to upload it as a short episode podcast? Do you have any news from Paramount on when they plan to add rewind? I keep looking for the app update that will finally bring it… that is also the main issue of Fanatiz.

  47. Michael F

    January 13, 2022 at 10:23 am

    @Hans “sinking ship” was your buddy @Ra’s line I just borrowed. Nice to see you actually read my posts! Can’t always say the same that I always read yours. At least you didn’t cherry pick a quote from a lengthy article just to suit your one sided slant on everything. 😆<—- hey look, I used your favorite emoji.

  48. dave

    January 12, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    @Ra hits the nail on the head with “The bizarre in the financials is that it is not really the people watching ESPN that are driving their profit – it is those who don’t care”. This is where I would be in some stage of increasing panic if I were an ESPN executive in charge of medium-term strategy. The very large and stable subsidy from non-ESPN-watchers is rapidly disappearing. Are there enough core ESPN-watchers willing to pay enough money to make that up?

  49. dave

    January 12, 2022 at 10:08 pm

    @JP, we are aligned on your comment “If/when ESPN goes OTT it will surely be expensive. Hope they would have certain tiers so could pay for only the things you actually want to watch”
    I think tiers are likely. My read of ESPN+ metrics and strategy (e.g., Hulu Live cramdown) are that they have a large group of price-sensitive customers who would be at risk of fleeing.
    Suppose ESPN+ drive to 30 million subscribers with ARPU up to $8 per month. That is $3 billion per year (triple current, seems aggressive), leaving a hole of ~$10 billion per year. Is there a tiering strategy that clears the market? Does advertising (an industry facing its own disruptive challenges) fill some?
    Perhaps I am overly pessimistic, but it strikes me as a tough business problem. I am not sure there are 25 million sports fans willing to pay ~$400 per year just for current ESPN linear properties (many probably also paying for some mix of FS1/BTN, Turner, USA, etc.). And if they charge, say, $50+ per month for a tier, those fans may aggressively cancel during their off-season months.

  50. Ra

    January 12, 2022 at 9:57 pm

    @Mercator. I completely agree with your comment of quality in quantity. The 4 multicast games is my go to configuration for Bundesliga Sat 9:30 kick-off. It is the only time in the week that I actually block to watch soccer. The bizarre in the financials is that it is not really the people watching ESPN that are driving their profit – it is those who don’t care. They are getting 7.50/subscriber on cable. So even at today’s ESPN+ only rate, they would be profitable enough if everyone that indirectly pays them through cable decided to actually pay for it.

  51. Mercator

    January 12, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    Funny enough the Soundcloud Podcast was good but most of it wasn’t related to ESPN+. Seemed to be the weekly podcast and what is the news with Lockhart Stadium? I thought the city was voting on Beckham land by the airport.

    I also think there is a quality to quantity. If you take the 100 best matches on ESPN+, they will certainly be better than the 100 best matches on Paramount or Peacock or probably Cable. Just due to volume. You just have to find the good matches and with Multicast that is much easier. Barca-Madrid was good all the way through today so I could flip to Chelsea – Spurs but really watched the classico, and caught the end of chelski before the end of Milan-Juve. ESPN having everything in one place with the multicast and app reminders allows them to get the most out of their quantity. If not for the Apple TV notifications I would have missed the extra time end of inter-juve.

    Expensive is also relative. There are legions of people who really only have cable for sports, most of which want ESPN. The NFL is generally on broadcast TV, ESPN owns the NBA, has a hand in every other sport. I don’t think Fox or CBS sticking key games on cable will be viable if people can get ESPN without cable. Even at $30 dollars there are millions of sports fans who would take the deal and just cut cable. I think Disney would price it lower to squeeze everyone out though, and would bundle it with Disney and Hulu so the cost would be fuzzy. At $30 including ESPN/ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu its not bad for sports fans.

  52. Hans

    January 12, 2022 at 9:22 pm

    “I am in no way expecting or hoping to convince younger generations to join what you call “a sinking boat”
    Fixed that for you.
    “I am in no way expecting or hoping to convince younger generations to sign up for a landline” :lol:”

  53. JP

    January 12, 2022 at 9:02 pm

    @dave, @Mercator
    If/when ESPN goes OTT it will surely be expensive. Hope they would have certain tiers so could pay for only the things you actually want to watch. Right now ESPN+ is perfect because has so much soccer and hockey and not subsidizing their NBA, college sports, talking head shows, and others that I don’t give a crap about.

    Probably said it before, generally hate everything about ESPN (their hype, narrow focus on certain stars, etc). With ESPN+ just get the action without their annoying tendencies thanks to the world feed or local NHL broadcast feeds. Forcing Alejandro Moreno on us for some La Liga matches as the biggest injustice we encounter on ESPN+. That type of thing is amplified on regular ESPN.

  54. Christopher Harris

    January 12, 2022 at 7:57 pm

    SteveK, I want to let you know that I take offense at you saying this is an advertorial. It clearly isn’t. If you don’t like ESPN+ or the story that is written, that’s fine. But don’t call it something that it isn’t.

    This is an article that World Soccer Talk spent considerable time on coming up with the idea, interviewing ESPN, writing the article and then preparing it for publication.

  55. Michael F

    January 12, 2022 at 6:18 pm

    @Mercator. I was just having some fun with that last reply. I totally understand this is in reference to the quality of their app. It is good quality, however I don’t care for its overall structure and organization but that’s just me.

    Regarding your comment about they “ could easily get 30m+ subscribers if they offered full ESPN.”

    If they offered ESPN, then ESPN+ subscription would go up, up, up and away in cost. 🙂

  56. Mercator

    January 12, 2022 at 5:50 pm

    @Michael F/SteveK – You guys are misreading, it’s a reference to the quality of the APP, not the quality of the football they have. And they are completely correct, ESPN+ is by far the best sports streaming app out there, it’s in a completely different league to Paramount, Peacock, etc. The multicast feature is outstanding, the recommendation system actually priorities the correct matches, the quality is always as high/higher than cable and is 60fps, I’ve never had a technical error (sometimes they start the stream late or start the wrong one). For those with cable, it easily integrates ESPN’s cable with ESPN+, and the app sends timely reminders of upcoming matches. I generally don’t like ESPN but for football they are hands down the best streaming app in the US for sports.

    In terms of quantity as well, they completely put their competitors to shame. They honestly have too much content to list, and I know you will say who cares no one watches, but its very nice to see the Belgian league or ISL occasionally. This is the best part about streaming, access to things basically no one else would watch. ESPN+ is the only reason I watch MLS, and actually I’m sad they lost Seria A because I now watch much less (Inter-Juv great ending!). It really does dominate – it’s the first place I go to check for football and its the broadcaster I hope gets just about every upcoming rights deal. ESPN FC is also great, I think the best regular football show on US TV and its actually daily. NBC or CBS don’t do anything like this.

    That said, outside of ESPN+, I don’t like ESPN and it was a disgrace they didn’t have the CFB Championship in 4K (again). I also think they could easily get 30m+ subscribers if they offered full ESPN.

  57. Michael F

    January 12, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    This quote from @SteveK: “How can anyone make the case that ESPN+ dominates in soccer quality if they don’t have the Premier League, Serie A, the World Cup, the Euros, the Champions League or the Europa League?”

    He has got a really good point! 😀. Btw… you forgot to add the World Cup. They no longer have that either.

  58. dave

    January 12, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    I strongly agree with @JP on “Wish we got more insight on viewing numbers for the various properties . . . how many are attracting enough viewers to warrant the rights fee . . .?”
    In old press releases, ESPN occasionally shared DTC/app minutes consumed. Divided by the number of subscribers, it was an average of ~2 hours per subscriber per month. Seemed so low it might be their miscommunication or my misinterpretation. But ESPN+ rarely share even basic engagement metrics, which makes me wonder if viewers per event might be embarrassingly low.
    As to data shared, I think it is not positive. ESPN+ have ~20 million subscribers with ARPU that hovers at ~$5 per month. If/when ESPN goes full OTT, it is estimated to need 30-40 million subscribers at $30-$40 per month to cover escalating rights fees (often locked in a decade in advance). Yikes. ESPN are outstanding at delivering live sports, but may be navigating rocky shoals in the near future. I will probably stay on the ESPN ship until the very end, but are there 30+ million others willing to pay $30+ per month? I am very skeptical.

  59. JP

    January 12, 2022 at 2:53 pm

    Gaffer says….”And they arguably have the best quality streaming service, which has experienced far fewer outages than Peacock and Paramount+.”

    Yup, pregame for the Italian Super Cup just only got audio working nowat about 2:50pm on P+ (commercials were fine of course)

  60. SteveK

    January 12, 2022 at 2:51 pm

    “Quantity refers to the number of matches, not viewers.”

    A meaningless metric unless it is backed up by viewership figures but I’m prepared to give you quantity even if Kyle or Christopher can’t link quantity to anything. 5400 matches with an average viewership of…I’ll wait. But how do you go from quantity to also dominates on “quality?” There’s nothing in this advertorial to support quality.

    “And they arguably have the best quality streaming service, which has experienced far fewer outages than Peacock”

    There are things I like about ESPN+ especially multicast on the Apple TV, but Peacock had one outage on 9/11. That must mean ESPN+ has never had an outage. Granted that is pretty good quality. I keep going back to this ridiculous assertion:

    “ESPN+ dominates soccer based on quality and quantity. For the biggest soccer fans, the exclusive access to major competitions like the Bundesliga, LaLiga and FA Cup make the subscription service practically essential.”

    Kyle just hasn’t made the the case that ESPN+ “dominates” soccer based on quality.

    You could talk rights fees paid, average number of viewers per league versus other leagues, you could talk historical numbers, some sense of improving metrics year to year, what did Serie A draw when it was on ESPN+ versus Paramount+ now and what is La Liga drawing now compared to some other league, you could attempt to assess how shoulder programming has improved, if indeed it has. How did the Euros do, did they exceed expectations? How can anyone make the case that ESPN+ dominates in soccer quality if they don’t have the Premier League, Serie A, the World Cup, the Euros, the Champions League or the Europa League?

  61. Ra

    January 12, 2022 at 2:08 pm

    @SteveK You are (mis)reading between the lines. Quantity refers to the number of matches, not viewers. Also, subscriber growth is the only KPI that matters to them. Soccer, or non-soccer – what matters is the portfolio. Btw, Peacock would be wise to offer MotoGP races. It would make me more likely to keep it once my prepaid 2.50/mo rate expires.
    They take long, but it seems that they are learning based on the Olympics example. If they don’t, others will be glad to eat their lunch.

  62. SteveK

    January 12, 2022 at 1:59 pm

    “ESPN+ dominates soccer based on quality and quantity”

    Without any viewership numbers this reads like an advertorial. Try harder Kyle.

    One might just as easily say Paramount+ with Serie A, the Champions League and the Europa League dominates soccer based on quality and quantity. Or is that next month’s advertorial?

    Where is any data that subscriber growth can be linked to soccer, any soccer?

    • Christopher Harris

      January 12, 2022 at 2:21 pm

      Steve, there’s no doubt that ESPN+ leads the way in quantity. And they arguably have the best quality streaming service, which has experienced far fewer outages than Peacock and Paramount+.

      The article mentions the huge number of live events that are soccer matches. While the article doesn’t mention how many people out of the 17 million signed up because of the soccer, there’s no argument that soccer is a key reason for their growth. But when it comes to surveying why ESPN+ became customers, it’s probably because of more than one sport, not just soccer.

  63. Michael F

    January 12, 2022 at 1:27 pm

    @Ra You are right. It is not a zero-sum game. Again, I am NOT a cable advocate, I am just sharing the realities of those that choose to continue with a cable-like conglomerate so as to continue to receive access to their local sports team games or league(s) they follow., in addition to other entertainment they might want to continue to have access to.

    I am in no way expecting or hoping to convince younger generations to join what you call “a sinking boat”… which we are still years away from seeing that happening. And ironically, it is these same providers that give you high speed internet to stream to your heart’s delight.

    We still pay the piper in some way or another. To continue to provide such hatred toward one of them (i.e. Comcast) is really looking at this with tunnel vision and missing the whole point.

    As I said in a previous post elsewhere… how many choices do many have to receive a true high speed internet source? The reality is… many areas only have one choice. to get high speed internet to meet their needs. Thus many households, might choose a bundle package that makes sense for them.

  64. Ra

    January 12, 2022 at 1:11 pm

    @Michael F. This is not a zero-sum game. This is the whole point. They should also put the matches on cable whenever possible. But ESPN has other properties that make more sense for them to put on cable. And based on demographics, it makes sense for them to segment this way. Also, it is impossible for them to carry all soccer matches on cable, given the sheer numbers.
    Statistically speaking, you should not be watching soccer. You realize that, based on what you shared, you are an outlier, right? I am glad you like and watch it, but based on your demographics, it is unlikely.
    Streamers are much more likely to watch soccer and vice-versa. Both are in the early t0 mid-stages in the maturity curve in the US. Cable is a milking cow – margins and money to be made are unparalleled, but it will be an uphill battle to convince younger generations to join the sinking boat.
    To me, ESPN is playing smart by being ahead of the curve – their numbers corroborate that.

  65. Michael F

    January 12, 2022 at 12:27 pm

    @greg You just described the current DREAM WORLD for streamers that have fully cut the cord from any and all cable-like conglomerates (including live tv streaming services) of which they ONLY watch soccer that is not the English Premier League. 😄

    For all the rest of the entertainment medium viewers that subscribe to more than just streaming only provider apps, they are glad to tell you that they don’t care about you. 🙂

  66. greg

    January 12, 2022 at 12:15 pm

    Haven’t listened to the pod yet, but from the comments you can’t help but think that they don’t plan on porting much international soccer to ESPN/ESPN2 and ABC, and that most soccer content outside of a major tournament like the Euros or WC (if they get either back) will be ESPN+ only, with the odd El Clasico or Bayern-Dortmund match on ESPN or even ABC, for reasons discussed at length here – that ESPN/2 on weekends in fall & winter is all college football or NFL, and ABC has news & public affairs they won’t bump. MLS seems to be the only thing to get some sort of ESPN/2/ABC exposure but likely due to summer and no major program conflicts with NCAA & NFL.

  67. JP

    January 12, 2022 at 11:46 am

    Wish we got more insight on viewing numbers for the various properties in this interview. We know they have tons of content, but how many are attracting enough viewers to warrant the rights fee for that property?

    The subscriber jump since 2019 is impressive, but some (or most) of that is probably tied to the Disney+ bundle, not ESPN+ itself. I suspect UFC was a big draw (2019?) and then La Liga and NHL were main drivers of new ESPN+ only subs within the last year.

  68. Ra

    January 12, 2022 at 11:35 am

    To me, it is not only what they offer, but how they offer. They implemented by far the best app experience, with multiview, multiple cameras, replays, etc. I wish that other soccer properties that I follow (UCL, Brasileirao, Serie A) were on ESPN+ just to enjoy those features.

  69. Yespage

    January 12, 2022 at 10:37 am

    One could argue NBC rules football as it is one of the only live linear TV options available to watch football on cable/sat.

  70. Eplnfl

    January 12, 2022 at 8:36 am

    I often go to EPSN+ for the Championship marches and Cup competitions. I love the service but I will bring up they ruined MLS coverage especially in Chicago

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