Disney has reached an agreement with Major League Baseball to acquire a one-third stake in the streaming-video unit of the league’s MLB Advanced Media technology arm in a deal valuing the unit at about $3.5 billion, Bloomberg reported.
Under the terms of the proposed pact, Disney has a four-year option to buy an additional 33% stake in MLBAM’s streaming unit, according to the report, which cited an anonymous source. WME-IMG was also among bidders vying for a stake in the unit, per Bloomberg. The reported valuation of the MLBAM unit, dubbed BAM Tech, would be post-investment.
The league formed MLBAM in 2000 to launch MLB.tv, one of the earliest Internet-delivered video subscription services. Since then, it has grown the division to operate streaming services of several other companies — including Disney’s WatchESPN.
Disney’s deal to buy into MLB Advanced Media’s BAM Tech raises the prospect that the Mouse House is poised to expand its range of online-video services. Disney execs have downplayed speculation that ESPN might split out from the pay-TV bundle with a direct-to-consumer service a la HBO Now (which is powered by MLBAM). But the sports programmer may be teeing up to launch ancillary offerings for niche-oriented sports.
Meanwhile, Disney last fall launched a subscription-streaming service called DisneyLife in the U.K. Priced at £9.99 per month, DisneyLife includes a collection of movies, TV shows, books and music from the media conglom. Movies from Marvel and the “Star Wars” franchise aren’t part of DisneyLife, but separate services for those brands could be launched in the future, Disney chief Bob Iger said at the time.
Other clients of New York-based MLBAM, headed by CEO Bob Bowman since its inception, include Time Warner’s HBO Now, WWE Network, Sony’s PlayStation Vue internet TV service, the Yankee’s YES Network, the PGA and Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze.
Last summer, MLBAM inked a six-year deal with the National Hockey League, under which MLB Advanced Media assumed the NHL’s TV broadcasting and Internet-streaming operations. MLBAM is said to be paying the NHL about $100 million per year for the rights to distribute the league’s out-of-market telecasts; in return, the NHL received an equity stake in MLBAM of between 7% and 10%.
In addition to TV and internet video operations, MLBAM operates the official League site, MLB.com, as well as each of the 30 individual team sites. In 2014, MLBAM captured, encoded and distributed 30,000 live video events, according to the league.