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Breaking Down Disney & ESPN's Streaming Future

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Welcome to the latest episode of the Full-Court Finance podcast from Zacks Investment Research where Associate Stock Strategist Ben Rains discusses Disney’s (DIS - Free Report) recent quarterly earnings results and dives into everything investors need to know about ESPN+ and the company’s streaming future.

Disney reported its Q1 fiscal 2019 financial results last week. Many investors were eager to hear updates about the entertainment giant’s $71 billion deal to acquire vital 21st Century Fox assets. The company is still waiting on some foreign territory approvals to clear before closing, but it has already cleared most of the major hurdles. The deal will also help bolster Disney’s standing-alone streaming push along with its box office business.

Even without the Fox offerings, Disney is prepared to roll out Disney+ this year in order to challenge Netflix (NFLX - Free Report) , Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) , and eventually Apple (AAPL - Free Report) , AT&T (T - Free Report) , and others. The company is set to demonstrate and provide more details about the streaming service at its investor day on April 11. Wall Street will closely watch for pricing information and content updates as Disney embarks on a new chapter in its storied history.

What we know so far is that Disney has increased its spending as it invests heavily in streaming, which includes its cord-cutter friendly ESPN+ platform. Disney’s sports network streaming service has grown relatively quickly and the company has continued to expand its content offerings from UFC to European soccer. ESPN+, which launched in April 2018 and costs $4.99 a month, doubled its number of paid subscriptions over a five-month period to reach 2 million.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s costs have climbed due to contractual rate increases for some of its key products like the NBA and the NFL. Shifting entertainment habits have hurt ESPN, but the company is still able to command one of the highest affiliate costs on TV. Plus, live sports will only become more attractive to advertisers in an age of decentralized entrainment where the likes of YouTube (GOOGL - Free Report) , Facebook (FB - Free Report) , and even Twitter (TWTR - Free Report) stand out. Let’s also not forget that ESPN and ESPN+ could easily make their way into the world of legalized sports betting as professional leagues partner with Caesars Entertainment (CZR - Free Report) and MGM Resorts (MGM - Free Report) .

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