updated 06:45 pm EDT, Tue May 15, 2012
Cable subscriber authentication required, no deal in place
The Walt Disney Company's network executive Sean Bratches said in an interview today that Disney would consider allowing the WatchESPN service application on the Apple TV set top device. Prior authentication of cable access would be required to view. No deal is imminent.
Bratches added that Disney was "a platform-agnostic content company. To the extent that in the future there's an opportunity with Apple to authenticate through the pay-TV food chain as we're doing with Microsoft, that's something we will participate in." Apple historically demands 30 percent of subscription fees when content is purchased through an application on an Apple iOS portable device. It is unknown if this requirement exists on the Apple TV.
ESPN has been adding online content to allow viewing for customers away from their televisions. An ESPN application exists on the Microsoft Xbox 360 as part of some cable plans, including Verizon FIOS and Comcast. Time Warner Cable is anticipating availability soon.
No plans have been announced for subscribing to just ESPN on an a la carte basis. Most of the major league sports networks have season packages that can be purchased for the Apple TV separate from any cable bundle. Any broadcast blackout restrictions (which would also be required for WatchESPN) on sports broadcasts are accomplished by IP region identification or subscriber address information.