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Disney-owned ESPN will soon be announcing its first Web-based TV streaming package, although it will only be a small step towards a full-scale online service, according to a new report.
The initial package won't include ESPN's lifelines — like pro-level football and basketball — but will instead cover smaller leagues, and possibly some college sports, a source told the The Information. The network is expected to use this package to capture some people who don't subscribe to traditional TV, while testing early online strategies with them.
ESPN has been more hesistant than most networks to offer online streaming, since that might risk its valuable deals with cable and satellite providers, which have used sports to keep people from switching to cheaper online alternatives.
Cordcutters have nevertheless caused ESPN's viewer numbers to decline. That may eventually force it to make the transition, especially as even long-time holdout networks like HBO have begun offering online-only plans.
ESPN already has a presence on live streaming services like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, but only as a part of larger bundles. Watching its channels online otherwise requires authenticating a cable or satellite subscription.