In 2016, we learned that ESPN was creating an over-the-top service (i.e. HBO Now) that would allow people to access the network’s wide portfolio of sports at a monthly cost.
Details were a little sketchy following that, but last year we found out the name of the service: ESPN+ (not ESPN Plus, but ESPN+. There’s a difference). In February, the price was revealed ($4.99), followed by the news that MLS was ending its streaming service, MLS LIVE, and moving out-of-market games to ESPN+ - with matches being available for free until the launch day.
It all dovetailed into today’s announcement that ESPN+ would debut on April 12, meaning that if you want to watch out-of-market MLS matches, you’ll need to subscribe. And for what it’s worth, it’s actually a good deal for both MLS fans and non-MLS fans.
First off, it’s a much better value. Last year’s MLS LIVE package cost $14.99 a month or $79.99 a year. ESPN+ costs $4.99 a month or $49.99 a year. That’s not bad! It also gives you access to everything else the service offers in case you’re a fan of other sports besides soccer. Yes, they do exist.
That ties into my next point, which is the fact that ESPN+ opens MLS up to more casual fans. A sports fan with a casual interest in soccer was never going to shell out $15 a month/$80 a year for MLS LIVE, but they would definitely pay $50 a year of 5 bucks a month for ESPN+. MLS’ hope is that he (or she) could sample the product and eventually develop into a more passionate supporter of the sport. Down the road, the USL could also find a home on the service:
For soccer fans, ESPN+ will have complete access to all out-of-market MLS matches this season. It'll also have college men's & women's soccer.— Ian Thomas (@byIanThomas) April 2, 2018
Per industry sources, it's likely USL ends up on the platform as well in the near future.
Keep this in mind, though: This is only for out-of-market games, meaning that national broadcasts and in-market Atlanta United matches will be blacked out as they normally would. I would assume that matches will be available for replay and that we won’t have to wait 48 hours to rewatch.
What are your thoughts? Will you be subscribing to ESPN+? Meanwhile, get your free MLS LIVE fix in now, because after April 11, it’s going the way of the dinosaur.