Disney Sets ESPN+ Launch Date

ESPN Party 2016 - Getty - H 2018
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The direct-to-consumer offering will offer daily live MLB and NHL games, in addition to boxing bouts and MLS matches.

ESPN's new streaming service is set to launch in April with a lineup of live sports that includes professional baseball, soccer and hockey games. 

The Disney-owned sports network on Monday revealed that ESPN+ will launch on April 12. For $5 per month, subscribers will get access to a lineup of live sports, original programming and an on-demand library. 

Live sports rights have been a sticking point for the service. With streaming rights for many of the leagues already parceled out among the major broadcasters, there were questions about what type of programming ESPN would be able to offer to lure new subscribers to ESPN+. 

At launch, ESPN+ will offer a live Major League Baseball game every day during the regular season, amounting to more than 180 games. It will offer a similar daily schedule of National Hockey League games during the 2018-2019 regular season. Soccer fans, meanwhile, will have exclusive access to full Major League Soccer out-of-market schedule and Chicago-area subscribers will be able to view in-market Chicago Fire matches. ESPN+ will also offer a selection of boxing matches, college sports, PGA Tour golfing events, Grand Slam tennis tournaments and international rugby and cricket matches. 

For an additional $25 per month, ESPN+ subscribers can also purchase the full MLB.TV out-of-market package. A similar offering will also launch ahead of the NHL season. 

"ESPN was built on a belief in innovation and the powerful connection between sports and a remarkable array of fans," said newly appointed ESPN president James Pitaro. "That same belief is at the heart of ESPN+ and the new ESPN App. With ESPN+, fans have access to thousands more live games, world-class original programs and on-demand sports content, all at a great price. They will get all of that as a part of a completely reimagined, increasingly personalized ESPN App that provides easy, one-stop access to everything ESPN offers."

Added Disney direct-to-consumer and international chairman Kevin Mayer: "The launch of ESPN+ marks the beginning of an exciting new era of innovation for our media businesses — one defined by an increasingly direct and personal relationship with consumers. This new product reflects our direct-to-consumer strategy focused on combining our beloved brands with our proprietary, industry-leading technology to give users unparalleled access to our world-class content." 

The service will be available through a newly redesigned ESPN app and via ESPN.com.  

ESPN+ is the first of two planned direct-to-consumer offerings from Disney. The other, a family-friendly service filled with original and licensed programming from across Lucasfilm, Marvel and Pixar, is expected to launch in 2019.