ESPN Plus is about to get pricier for sports fans who sign up for the streamer’s monthly plan.
Now that sports have started back up after the months-long COVID hiatus, the Disney-owned programmer has decided to raise the price of ESPN Plus by 20%: Starting Aug. 12, the monthly price of an ESPN Plus subscription for new customers will go up to $5.99 per month, versus the $4.99 monthly price that the streaming service launched with in April 2018.
According to ESPN, existing monthly subscribers will continue to pay $4.99 monthly for at least the next 12 months — although that is subject to change.
In addition, the one-year ESPN Plus subscription will remain $49.99 annually. Also, the price of Disney’s three-way bundle — with Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu with ads — will remain unchanged at $12.99 per month.
It’s the first price hike for ESPN Plus’ base monthly subscription since it launched more than two years ago, although starting in 2020 the service hiked the price of UFC’s pay-per-view events to $64.99 each (up from $59.99 previously).
ESPN Plus had racked up 8.5 million paid subscribers as of June 27, gaining 600,000 in the most recent quarter and more than tripling year-over-year. The relatively low price point has been a big draw, and ESPN says it has continued to invest in both live sports and original programming.
By raising the monthly price of ESPN Plus to $5.99, Disney obviously is looking to boost revenue. But the change also seems to be aimed at driving subscribers to lock into the one-year plan or opt for the ESPN Plus/Disney Plus/Hulu bundle.
Disney likes the bundle and the one-year plans because it results in less churn (the rate of people canceling month to month). In fact, Hulu separately today announced a new one-year pricing plan: Available starting Friday, in addition to Hulu’s $5.99 per month ad-supported plan, subscribers will have the option to get a one-year subscription to Hulu (with ads) for $59.99 — a 16% discount.
For the June 2020 quarter, Disney said ESPN Plus delivered “higher results” thanks to subscriber growth and higher income from UFC PPV events, but the company didn’t break those out.
While the subscribers are growing, average monthly revenue per paid subscriber for ESPN Plus declined over the past year: dropping from $5.33 in June 2019 to $4.18 in the most recently quarter. That, according to Disney, is because of the rollout of the bundled subscription package of Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu beginning in November 2019 as well as lower per-subscriber advertising revenue.
ESPN Plus has advertised more than 12,000 live events annually, although with the COVID-19 pandemic the schedule has been massively disrupted. In addition to live sports, the service includes thousands of hours of on-demand content including original shows and series, documentaries, features, past show episodes, classic events and selected replays.
Live sports programming currently scheduled to be on ESPN Plus in late summer and early fall include MLB games, UFC Fight Nights, PPV, and Contender Series, Top Rank Boxing, Bundesliga soccer, Serie A soccer, FA Cup soccer, MLS, English Football League soccer, PGA Tour, Big 12 and American Conference college sports, and U.S. Open Tennis.