ESPN Digital to link users to RSNs

ESPN is updating its app and other digital offerings to become a portal linking users to select partner regional sports networks

The sports giant will begin sending users to RSN New England Sports Network, NESN, the week of March 25, 2024, via links embedded in features such as on-screen tickers. 

NESN is the regional home of the MLB’s Boston Red Sox and NHL’s Boston Bruins.

Users will still have to have any required apps from the RSN as well as necessary subscriptions to actually watch the content because ESPN’s platform is simply serving as a portal to connect content.

Later in 2024, ESPN will add SportsNet Pittsburgh (MLB’s Pittsburgh Pirates and NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins). May 2024 will see Monumental Sports Network, home of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, NBA’s Washington Wizards and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, added. 

The features will use geolocation technology so that only viewers in eligible viewing areas will be shown the links, and further eligibility will presumably be determined based on authenticating the user on the native RSN app or site.

The move comes at a time when viewer frustration in fragmentation is growing and having its digital platforms become more user-friendly and a central source of content, no matter who carries it, could prove a key strategy. In most cases, ESPN’s offerings wouldn’t be directly competing with the content it’s sending users to since regional and national broadcast rights are typically sold separately.


Sports broadcasting is already extremely fragmented thanks to complex and exclusive broadcast rights contracts leagues or teams sign.

In other words, the TV and streaming availability of any particular game is already highly restricted to, in most cases, one local station or one RSN and one national broadcaster. Blackout rules typically give local and regional broadcasters priority in the teams’ particular parts of the country, too, so even if ESPN had the rights to carry the matchup through a separate deal, its viewers in the corresponding region would end up seeing alternative programming anyway.