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Disney has a million subscribers for its ESPN streaming-only service, which launched in April

That number will surprise some people, like the person typing up this article.

A hand holding a mobile phone showing an ESPN+ screen ESPN
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Here is a number that will surprise lots of people in the media industry: Disney says it has a million paying subscribers for its ESPN+ streaming service, which it launched five months ago.

Reminder: This isn’t “real” ESPN, but a service that lets you see a mixed bag of sports the programmer doesn’t run on its primary networks, like Italian soccer, small college sports and a smattering of pro baseball games.

If you were skeptical ESPN would find many takers for that at $5 a month, join the club. Disney isn’t providing any detail about what has driven pickup for the service, with one caveat: It notes that it converted subscribers to ESPN’s existing “Insider” service — which gave hardcore sports fans access to bonus ESPN articles and the like — to ESPN+ subs at the end of August.

But Disney says those converted subs are a “significant minority” of the one million number it’s announcing this morning. Full text, via their comms group: “The vast majority of the 1 million are new subscribers, who’ve signed up for ESPN+ since its launch in April. Adding ESPN Insider to ESPN+ did add some subscribers, but they account for a significant minority of the total.”

The number is worth noting for a couple reasons:

  • Everyone in media is trying to launch their own direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service, so this is a data point that suggests there’s room for more players.
  • This should give Disney (and, not coincidentally, Disney investors) some confidence in the prospects for the yet-to-be-named Disney movie streaming service it plans to launch next year, which has much bigger ambitions and stakes.

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