The march to the 2 million subscribers milestone for ESPN+, announced yesterday by Bob Iger on Disney’s earnings call, was spurred in part by the launch of UFC Fight Night on ESPN+ on Jan. 19. ESPN+ added 568,000 new fans with the launch on that weekend. It was the result of months of planning focused on answering the question: “How can we utilize all the unparalleled assets of ESPN, DTCI (Disney’s Direct-To-Consumer & International) and DSS (Disney Streaming Services) to maximize this ‘You only have one shot at a launch’ opportunity’?”
The preparation for Jan. 19 started September 2018 at a daylong planning summit in Bristol, Conn. Teams from UFC, ESPN, DTCI, and DSS met for a collegial, creative and – ultimately — extremely effective session that kicked off months of collaboration resulting in a record-setting night, results that measurably reinforce the power of the ESPN brand.
In some respects, Disney and ESPN had been working towards this moment for years: building two of the world’s most advanced digital production centers — DC-1 and DC-2 in Bristol; acquiring a majority ownership in BAMTech; aggressively investing in new properties like UFC and its passionate fan base to help catapult the Company’s direct-to-consumer strategy; rallying all the vast corners of the ESPN and DTCI organizations; and then showing what it all can mean, powerfully, in one weekend.