Will an Apple TV Deal Help ESPN Build Its Audience?

Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE:DIS) ESPN sports network is reportedly in talks with Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to include its WatchESPN application on Apple TV, according to Bloomberg News.

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ESPN subscribers with Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) television device would gain access to the network’s Internet service on their TV sets, said Sean Bratches, the network’s executive vice president of affiliate and advertising sales, in an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday. Users would have to authenticate they are pay-TV customers.

The sports network, which today announced programming for the TV season starting in September, said a deal isn’t imminent. We’re a platform-agnostic content company,” said Bratches. “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 that we will participate in.”

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ESPN already has an app for Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox video-game console for subscribers of some pay-TV plans, including Verizon’s (NYSE:VZ) FiOS and Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), while Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) “hopes to have WatchESPN available for Xbox soon,” said Alex Dudley, a company spokesman.