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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

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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