ESPN+ offers a first look at Disney’s big plans for streaming

That division, which was created last month as part of a business restructure, is now in charge of leading the company’s digital efforts. And, you guessed it, that includes Disney’s own streaming service, which doesn’t have a name yet. “I can say that our plan on the Disney side is to price this substantially below where Netflix is.” Robert A. Iger, Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company said last November. “That is in part reflective of the fact that it will have substantially less volume.” Disney’s idea, it seems, is to bet on quality over quantity, a luxury that owning movie franchises like Star Wars and studios such as Pixar allows it to have.

Bristol, CT - April 5, 2018: Private First-Look at ESPN+ and the New ESPN App(Photo by Melissa Rawlins / ESPN Images)

With ESPN+, Disney is showing it can create a streaming service that’s easy to use, looks good and works seamlessly across different platforms. At launch, ESPN+ is available on iOS, Apple TV, Android, Android TV, Chromecast, Amazon devices and the web, with Roku support coming later. As for content, subscribers have access to thousands of live and on-demand events, including games from MLB, NHL, MLS and events in sports like boxing, cricket, rugby. The latter are important because ESPN says it wants ESPN+ to cater to “underserverved sports fans,” and the company feels this gives it the opportunity to do just that.

But ESPN didn’t create ESPN+ alone. The company worked with BAMTech, a video-streaming platform that has powered services like HBO Now. This is no coincidence, since Disney acquired majority ownership of BAMTech in 2017. BamTech was originaly an arm of Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media, but has since evolved to be one of the most prominent companies in the video-streaming space, and takes credit for being the first one to stream 4K at 60fps.

Matches on ESPN+ are streamed at 60fps in HD by default, and BAMTech’s job is to ensure that picture quality stays crisp regardless of device or bandwidth. That’s something Netflix has also been trying to perfect in-house, using proprietary compression methods to reduce video data without affecting quality.

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