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Possibly more impressive than the 28.6 million subscribers Disney+ has reeled in since its November launch has been the service’s ability to boost the company’s other streaming platforms — ESPN+ and Hulu — through bundling the services together.

On Tuesday, Disney announced that in addition to the nearly 29 million Disney+ subscribers — which surpassed analysts’ expectations for 25 million subscribers — Hulu saw paid subscribers increase more than 30% to 30.7 million. ESPN+ more than doubled its paid subscriber count year-over-year, posting 7.6 million subscribers, up from 1.4 million during the same fiscal first-quarter period a year ago.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

Also Read: Disney+ Tops 28 Million Paid Subscribers, Company Beats Q1 Earnings Expectations

During Disney’s quarterly conference call during which he laid out the subscriber growth, CEO Bob Iger also applauded the company’s ability to shift its strategic focus and have such success in the streaming landscape.

“It’s an impressive quarterly report from Disney in the company’s first report since launching its eponymous streaming service,” said Haris Anwar, an analyst at financial markets platform “It’s not only succeeding in attracting more subscribers to its Disney+ app, but also ensuring strong momentum from its legacy businesses. It’s a winning combination and more importantly, it proves the company has a solid strategy to build a competitive streaming video product which can challenge its rivals, including the incumbent Netflix.”

Disney announced back in August that it planned to bundle its then-forthcoming Disney+ service with its middling ESPN+ platform and Hulu. Together, the three services cost subscribers $12.99 per month, saving viewers $5 per month compared to paying for the services à la carte. And, importantly, the bundle costs the same as Netflix’s standard subscription.

“I think what they just announced is the best value in America,” John Landgraf, CEO of FX, which is owned by Disney, told TheWrap at the time.

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ESPN+ has been a relatively niche service. The app gives sports enthusiasts thousands of live games from MLB, MLS, NHL, soccer from England, Germany and Italy, and college football and basketball games from the Big 12 and more than a dozen mid-major conferences like the Sun Belt and Ivy League. ESPN signed a major rights deal with the UFC in 2018 that makes ESPN+ the main host for fights. ESPN+ also offers users access to its “30 for 30” documentary series archive and exclusive shows like episodes of Kobe Bryant’s basketball breakdown show “Detail,” and Peyton Manning’s “Peyton’s Places” and the revived “NFL Primetime.”

But what you won’t find on ESPN+ are events like the College Football National Championship, “Monday Night Football” or the NBA Finals. The lack of big-ticket live sports hampers ESPN’s ability to create a truly robust offering that’s on par with Disney+, which has brought brands like Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars under one roof. But bundling them all together makes for a much more attractive prospect.

It wasn’t all roses for ESPN+ and Disney, however. Overall, Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international business — which houses Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu — saw operating losses widen to $693 million from $136 million during the same period a year ago. Though the loss is significant, Disney had warned investors that it was expecting losses as it invested more in streaming and got Disney+ off the ground.

“The increase in operating loss was due to costs associated with the launch of Disney+, the consolidation of Hulu and a higher loss at ESPN+,” the company said in its earnings release. “The increase in operating loss at ESPN+ was primarily due to higher programming costs, primarily for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) rights, and an increase in marketing spend, partially offset by subscriber revenue growth and UFC pay-per-view fees.”

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Disney management has said they expect the streaming business to turn a profit in 2024, as Disney+ is project to hit 60-90 million global subscribers.

During its fiscal first quarter, Disney reported $20.86 billion in revenue, edging past analyst estimates of $20.79 billion, and earnings per share of $1.53, which excluded certain items that affected comparability to prior quarters, which surpassed projections of $1.44 per-share earnings.

“We had a strong first quarter, highlighted by the launch of Disney+, which has exceeded even our greatest expectations,” Iger said in a statement. “Thanks to our incredible collection of brands, outstanding content from our creative engines and state-of-the-art technology, we believe our direct-to-consumer services, including Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu, position us well for continued growth in today’s dynamic media environment.”

Tim Baysinger contributed to this report.

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Pete Frates, the former college athlete who inspired the viral 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, died Monday at age 34.

“Today Heaven received our angel: Peter Frates. A husband to Julie, a father to Lucy, a son to John and Nancy, a brother to Andrew and Jennifer, Pete passed away surrounded by his loving family, peacefully at age 34, after a heroic battle with ALS,” his family posted on his official website.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is an incurable disease where nerve cells break down and weaken muscles.

Frates, a native of Beverly in the Boston suburbs, was a three-sport athlete at St. John’s Prep in nearby Danvers and played baseball at Boston College. He went on to play professionally in Germany after graduation and as in amateur leagues after returning to the U.S. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2012 at age 27, a year after sustaining a wrist injury during a minor league baseball game that didn’t heal properly.

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“In his lifetime, he was determined to change the trajectory of a disease that had no treatment or cure,” the statement continued. “As a result, through his determination–along with his faithful supporters, Team Frate Train–he championed the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. In August of 2014, the historic movement pioneered social media fundraising and garnered donations globally that resulted in better access to ALS care, genetic discoveries, treatments and, someday, a cure. He was a beacon of hope for all.”

The Ice Bucket Challenge went viral during July and August of 2014 and involved an individual getting dunked by freezing cold water and nominating three others to undergo the challenge. At the end of August 2014, The ALS Association announced they had raised $100+ million in donations during that time period. The challenge also raised monies for additional ALS awareness organizations.

Celebrities ranging from Oprah to Chris Pratt participated in the challenge, which raised $200 million world wide.

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Disney is all-in in the streaming era. Yet one of its most profitable assets, ESPN, has been reduced to a sideline player instead of a star athlete.

Though the launch of Disney+ was among the most anticipated product debuts in recent memory, it wasn’t the first Disney-owned streaming service. ESPN+ hit the market in April 2018, and now counts more than 3.5 million paying subscribers.

The app gives sports enthusiasts thousands of live games from MLB, MLS, NHL, soccer from England, Germany and Italy, and college football and basketball games from the Big 12 and more than a dozen mid-major conferences like the Sun Belt and Ivy League. ESPN signed a major rights deal with the UFC last year that makes ESPN+ the main host for fights. ESPN+ also offers users access to its “30 for 30” documentary series archive, and exclusive shows like Kobe Bryant’s basketball breakdown show, “Detail,” and Peyton Manning’s “Peyton’s Places” and the revived “NFL Primetime.”

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But what you won’t find on ESPN+ are events like the College Football National Championship, “Monday Night Football” or the NBA Finals. And that lack of big-ticket live sports hampers ESPN’s ability to create a truly robust offering that’s on par with Disney+, which has brought brands like Marvel, Pixar and Star Wars under one roof.

“Success for ESPN+ probably doesn’t look like 20 million-50 million subscribers, given that 95% of live Tier 1 sports content still monetizes fully on established platforms,” said Patrick Crakes, a former Fox Sports executive who now works as a media consultant, who believes that ESPN+ could get to 15 million within the next five years. In comparison, Disney+ is projected to have as many as 90 million subscribers in that same time frame.

Disney’s bundling of ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu (the ad-supported version) costs $12.99 a month, or the same cost as Disney+ ($6.99) and Hulu ($5.99) together. Disney is essentially giving away ESPN+ for free, hoping to boost subscribers.

As viewers have shifted their habits away from linear TV into a more on-demand/on-their-own-time world, live sports have been the last remaining pillar holding up the old legacy TV model. That puts ESPN — which is paying out billions of dollars each year to the MLB, NFL, NBA and NCAA for high-profile sports rights — in an awkward position.

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The network is caught between the old guard of the traditional TV bundle, and the new streaming world. ESPN has been one of the most reliable cash cows for Disney, bringing in more than $10 billion in revenue a year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. That is despite continued subscriber losses that come amid a larger dwindling of the pay-TV bundle. ESPN lost 3 million in 2019, and has shed 16 million since 2013.

“They are taking a very measured approach by adding complementary sports not substitutional sports. They will do this as long as possible as not to further upset the pay-TV apple cart,” Michael Nathanson, an analyst at MoffetNathanson, told TheWrap.

The next few years will give a good indication into how Disney brass views the health of the legacy TV model.

In 2021, ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” contract with the NFL expires, and its MLB deal is up for renewal the following year. DirecTV’s exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket package, which offers its subscribers access to every out-of-market game, will be up for grabs in 2022, along with NBC, CBS and Fox’s broadcast rights.

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There is increased interest from sports leagues in carving out streaming rights packages. Both Amazon and Twitter have signed streaming-only deals for “Thursday Night Football” in the last few years, and CBS All Access has rights to the NFL and college football games that air on the CBS stations. But ESPN could be robbing Peter to pay Paul.

While giving ESPN+ access to “Monday Night Football” and other top shelf sports would undoubtedly make it more attractive, it could make it harder for Disney to command its hefty subscriber fees from cable and satellite companies — ESPN commands more than $9 a month per subscriber, one of the highest price tags of any TV channel. A price hike for ESPN+ would be likely, in order to keep its pay-TV providers happy. It’s a similar situation that WarnerMedia faces with HBO Max, which will costs $14.99 a month when it rolls out next May, in order to align with the price that Comcast and Charter charge for access to HBO.

Crakes adds there is still too much value in making something like “Monday Night Football,” which is averaging 12.6 million viewers this year (a 6% increase from 2018) no longer exclusive to pay-TV subscribers. “With ‘Monday Night Football,’ I would suggest it stays in ESPN exclusively in the next NFL deal. It’s just not time to walk away, yet,” said Crakes.

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“It’s a trade-off,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international business, said during an industry conference on Tuesday. “When the pay-TV numbers are low enough and all you have is sports fans that are in that bundle, does it makes sense at that point, rather than wholesaling to what’s basically a sports-fan only bundle, to be a retailer?”

Putting ESPN’s biggest and best live sports on ESPN+ could be seen as a prelude to going fully over the top and offering its entire network outside of the pay-TV ecosystem, much like HBO and Showtime have done. But Nathanson doesn’t see that happening anytime soon: “Maybe in 10 years time, they will go full a la carte, but not now,” he said.

Even so, Mayer hinted that was a possibility.

“At some point, we very well could make the a la carte option available over-the-top for ESPN. We’re not at that point now, and I don’t think we’re very close to that point,” he said. “People are still well-served in the bundle that are sports fans. But we’re always monitoring the situation.”

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This Veterans Day, take a moment to honor someone who took the time out to serve our country in the military. And barring that, watch a film or show featuring one of these Hollywood stars who will most definitely be celebrating Veterans Day on Monday. Some of the actors on this list have military careers that date all the way back to World War II. And while this list excludes celebrities who have passed away, including people like James Stewart, Elvis Presley and Bea Arthur, there’s more than enough patriotism on this list to go around.

Adam Driver

Adam Driver joined up in the Marines shortly after 9/11 and served for two years and eight months before being medically discharged after suffering a mountain biking accident. He was assigned to Weapons Company, 1st Battalian, 1st Marines. And though he was never deployed, he did get a nickname from his fellow Marines: “Ears Two.” He explained to Stephen Colbert that he was one of two guys in his battalion with big ears, but that he avoided most of the verbal ridicule. He told The Guardian how serving changed his outlook on life. “There’s something about going into the military and having all of your identity and possessions stripped away: that whole clarity of purpose thing. It becomes very clear to you, when you get your freedom back, that there’s stuff you want to do.”

Clint Eastwood

Though he’s more well known as a Western cowboy, Clint Eastwood was drafted into the Korean War and served as a lifeguard while training at Fort Ord in California. He was discharged in 1953 and was able to attend acting school during his tenure thanks to the G.I. Bill.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman actually turned down a partial scholarship for acting and instead opted to join the Air Force. For nearly four years between 1955 to 1959, he served as a radar technician and rose to the rank of Airman 1st Class. He told AARP magazine (via that he felt as though he were sitting “in the nose of a bomb” once he finally trained to fly a fighter plane. “You are not in love with this; you are in love with the idea of this,” Freeman said.

Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris joined the U.S. Air Force as an air policeman beginning in 1958, eventually being sent to Osan Air Base in South Korea. It was there he developed his signature martial arts form, the Chun Kuk Do. He was later discharged in 1962.

Tom Selleck

The “Magnum P.I.” actor Tom Selleck served in the California Army National Guard between 1967 to 1973.


In an effort to support his girlfriend and newly born daughter, Ice-T enlisted in the military to get off the streets and found himself stationed in Hawaii in the 25th Infantry Division between 1977 to 1979. It was there he started meeting people who helped inspire his music career as a rapper.

Tony Bennett

The famed Italian singer Tony Bennett, now in his ’90s, was drafted to serve in World War II in Nov. 1944, and by March of 1945, he was sent to the front line through France and into Germany as part of the 63rd Infantry Division, better known as the “Blood and Fire” division. In his autobiography “The Good Life,” Bennett recalled the experience as having a “front row seat in hell.”

Rob Riggle

Comedian Rob Riggle served in the Marines for 23 years, first joining up in 1990 when he said he would rather be a “Top Gun” pilot than be a waiter. He served in Kosovo, Liberia, Afghanistan and Albania during his time, becoming a decorated lieutenant colonel in the process. And though he wanted to enter into flight school, he realized it would hinder his dream of one day doing comedy. “I stopped flying, became a ground officer, had a short contract, fulfilled my contract and pursued comedy and acting,” Riggle told CBS News. “I stayed in the reserves though and did the reserves for the last 14 years. And I just retired in January from the Marines. This is a great country, you can do it all.”

Robin Quivers

Robin Quivers, a co-host on Howard Stern’s radio show, rose to the rank of captain while enlisted in the U.S. Air Force between 1975 and 1978. She was discharged shortly after, but remained a member of the reserve with no active duty until 1990, according to the biography “Howard Stern: King of All Media.”

Zulay Henao

Colombian-American actress Zulay Henao served three years in the U.S. Army, telling Maxim she joined up right after high school and immediately felt the pressure of basic training at Fort Bragg. “it was miserable. I quickly realized I’d have to change my attitude if I was going to get through it. I’ve always tried to make the most out of my experiences, but that one was tough,” she told Maxim.

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas had a brief stint in the U.S. Navy, joining up shortly after America entered World War II, serving on a submarine between 1943 and 1944, according to CNN.

James Earl Jones

Though he was recruited during the most active time during the Korean War and eventually to the rank of first lieutenant, James Earl Jones was stationed at a cold-weather training command base in Leadville, Colorado beginning in 1953.

Gene Hackman

Gene Hackman said on an episode of “Inside the Actors’ Studio” that when he was 16, he lied about his age and enlisted in the marine corps in 1946. He spent four and a half years as a field radio operator and was stationed in China for a time before being assigned to Hawaii and Japan.

Mel Brooks

The comedy legend Mel Brooks served in World War II as a combat engineer, defusing land mines as a corporal in the 1104 Engineer Combat Division. “I was a combat engineer. Isn’t that ridiculous? The two things I hate most in the world are combat and engineering,” Brooks joked to “War isn’t hell… War is loud. Much too noisy. All those shells and bombs going off all around you. Never mind death. A man could lose his hearing.”

Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall may be known for his Vietnam War movie “Apocalypse Now,” but he did briefly serve in the Army shortly after the Korean War, even acting in plays while stationed in Camp Gordon in Georgia. He served two years and left as a private first class. He did have to clarify the extent of his service however, telling People in 1984 (via, “Some stories have me shooting it out with the Commies from a foxhole over in Frozen Chosen. Pork Chop Hill stuff. Hell, I barely qualified with the M-1 rifle in basic training.”

Drew Carey

Drew Carey still has his crew cut and signature glasses that he first started wearing back in his Marine Corps days when he served as a field radio operator in the 25th Marine Regiment in Ohio. The comedian served for six years and has frequently given back to the military in the form of performances for the USO.


The comedian Sinbad told Ebony magazine that he nearly had a dishonorable discharge for going AWOL while he was serving in the air force as a boom operator, including frequently leaving to perform stand-up comedy and because he failed to make the Air Force basketball team.

Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier lied about his age to enlist during World War II and wound up in a VA hospital in Northport, New York, serving for a year before obtaining a discharge in 1944.

Alan Alda

While best known as a military doctor on “M.A.S.H.,” Alda completed a minimum six-month tour of duty in the Korean War as a gunnery officer.

Oliver Stone

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HBO has acquired the U.S. television and streaming rights to the feature-length documentary “Diego Maradona,” the network announced on Wednesday.

The documentary, which will have its world premiere at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, documents the trials and triumphs of the legendary soccer player. HBO plans to release the documentary, which was executive produced and directed by Asif Kapadia, on Sept. 24.

“Diego Maradona has long been considered the greatest footballer ever, and Asif Kapadia’s filmmaking perfectly captures every high and low of his transcendent career, from his controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal to his awakening of Napoli, and more,” Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports, said. “We look forward to sharing this landmark documentary with both soccer and non-soccer fans alike.”

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“My producers and I are delighted to be working with HBO on the release of ‘Diego Maradona’ in North America,” Kapadia said. “HBO stands for quality, and as long-term fans, we know we’re in great hands. Having spent three intense years working with my brilliant team of collaborators on the most complex charismatic character, Diego Maradona, I’m excited to see how the North American audience reacts. I hope this is the beginning of a long journey together with HBO and Diego.”

The documentary features video archives and personal photos as well as interviews with historians and journalists.

Maradona is an Argentine retired football player who had the nickname “El Pibe de Oro,” (“The Golden Boy”), due to his extreme passion and talent in the sport. He was the first player in football history to set the world record transfer fee twice, and played professionally at Napoli and Barcelona. Maradona played in four FIFA World Cups, including the 1986 World Cup when Argentina won over West Germany in the final. In that World Cup, Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal became one of the iconic moments in soccer history

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“Diego Maradona” is an HBO Sports presentation in association with On The Corner and Lorton Entertainment. James Gay-Rees and Paul Martin produce, which executive producers are Kapadia, George Pank, Will Clarke, Julian Bird and Bil Bungay. For HBO, executive producers are Nelson and Bill Simmons. Cinetic Media negotiated the deal on behalf of the filmmakers.

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