ESPN’s standalone subscription could hit $30, receive preference on Roku

The ESPN app featured on Roku.
ESPN reportedly has been in talks with Roku about its upcoming standalone streaming option being a featured app on the home screen. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

While the super sports streaming service that combines ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery events remains in a holding pattern for now (that’ll change soon enough), a little more news about ESPN’s upcoming standalone streaming service is starting to trickle out.

We’d take all this with some skepticism considering that the service won’t be available until sometime in 2025, and a lot can change by then. Citing unnamed sources in a piece titled “ESPN is open for business,” The Athletic’s Andrew Marchand writes that the standalone ESPN subscription — which would be a true direct-to-consumer (DTC) service and would not require an existing subscription to cable or an online-based service like YouTube TV — is targeting a monthly price between $25 and $30.

That’s a big deal because it would theoretically get you the full ESPN experience — every live show and every live sport that’s available now on streaming and cable — for one-third to 40% of the cost of a live TV streaming service. (That varies a little depending on the service.) And you wouldn’t be saddled with dozens of other channels that you might not ever want to watch.

And while that wouldn’t certainly wouldn’t cover every live sporting event available today, combine the standalone ESPN subscription with an over-the-air antenna and you’d have a compelling (and relatively low-cost) option. And at the end of the day, it’s really all about choice. One of the things that drives up streaming subscription prices are the fees networks charge the distributors. Marchand notes that ESPN costs $10 per subscriber as part of a cable bundle, and those subscribers have to pay for it whether or not they watch ESPN. Same goes for other channels, like Fox News. A standalone ESPN subscription would make eschewing cable or streaming bundles that much more possible, and make lower-cost options like Philo (which has far fewer channels) more palatable.

It’s also not yet known if the standalone subscription would include ESPN+, which is separate from ESPN proper and offers additional on-demand shows, as well as far more live sports than could ever fit on the linear ESPN properties.

Also in the piece, Marchand notes that ESPN is in talks with Roku to “offer the new DTC service as one of its tiles when viewers turn on televisions.” He notes that ESPN also has had (presumably) similar talks with Amazon and Apple, though that could all mean different things. Apple TV, for example, doesn’t currently allow for third-party preloaded bloatware. (The Apple TV ESPN app does, however, support automatic login if you supply your existing cable or streaming credentials.) Or perhaps it was referring to Apple TV, the app, and how ESPN could have a place in it alongside Apple TV’s own MLS Season Pass option, which doesn’t compete with ESPN since the latter lost the rights to MLS matches in 2023.

But money talks, so we’ll just have to see what eventually comes to fruition. And in any case, we still have a long way to go until this standalone subscription option is available.

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