ESPN3 (formerly ESPN360 and ESPN3.com) is an online streaming service owned by ESPN Inc., a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company (which operates the network, through its 80% controlling ownership interest) and the Hearst Corporation (which holds the remaining 20% interest), that provides live streams and replays of global sports events to sports fans in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Chile, the Middle East, New Zealand and Europe (except Italy).
The use of the name ESPN3 was discussed as early as 1996 for the channel that would eventually become known as ESPNews. The website began in 2005 as ESPN360.com, a mostly on-demand video website. In September 2007, ESPN360.com shifted away from on-demand content such as studio shows and shifted toward placing "emphasis on live events". On April 4, 2010, ESPN360.com re-launched as ESPN3.com. On August 31, 2011, the network became simply known as ESPN3, and was incorporated into the WatchESPN platform, which also carries simulcasts of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater, SEC Network and Longhorn Network. The following year, most programming from ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU that aired during the evening hours, or from 12:00 p.m. local time onward on weekends, was removed from ESPN3; such programs are no longer available live on ESPN3 except for alternate camera angles and Spanish language dubs that do not air on ESPN Deportes. Most sporting events that air on the WatchESPN platform live, even if they originally aired on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU, are available on-demand from ESPN3 after the event ends for a period of up to 30 days (exceptions as of 2016 include games from the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, both of which require TV Everywhere logins through WatchESPN).
ESPN3 features live online sports viewing from a broad array of global events including: FIFA World Cup global qualifiers, X Games, North American Soccer League, DFB-Pokal and the Major Arena Soccer League, with an array of American football events such as high school football, NCAA college football, Arena Football League, Canadian Football League (CFL), NCAA college basketball (both men's and women's), NBA and WNBA basketball, Major League Baseball, Sugar Land Skeeters and NCAA baseball, Kontinental Hockey League and National Women's Hockey League ice hockey, three grand slam tennis events, one men's major golf championship, cricket, Major League Lacrosse and NCAA College lacrosse (as well as the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League, via TSN), competitive eating contests such as the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest and National Buffalo Wing Festival; in 2011, ESPN3 was one of the few sources to view live American Le Mans Series races. ESPN3 broadcasts are mostly events that do not air on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU; some are exclusive broadcasts, some are alternate camera angles of programming airing in simulcast on one of the linear networks, some are simulcasts from either ABC, foreign or regional sports networks, and some (especially in the case of arena football) are local radio broadcasts synchronized with the arena's internal Jumbotron feed.
On November 1, 2010, ESPN3 launched on Xbox Live. This service allows Xbox Live members to access live sporting events on ESPN3, among other offerings, at no additional cost. At launch, Xbox Live Gold membership was required to access the ESPN app; however, with the June 2014 update to Xbox Live, Gold membership is no longer required to access ESPN on Xbox 360 or Xbox One.
Some internet service providers have complained to the FCC that ESPN3 (along with other services that use the TV Everywhere system) violates the principles of network neutrality. ESPN3 bundles its content into the fees of the participating ISP, regardless of whether or not users partake in accessing its content. If a particular ISP does not pay subscription fees to ESPN, users of that ISP are not granted access to ESPN3. There is no way for individual users to overcome these access restrictions as ESPN3 does not provide subscription options for individual users or any other non-ISP entities, and because most ISPs operate in specific territories without competition, a subscriber cannot access ESPN3 unless a participating ISP actually operates in the area. ESPN's only recommended solution in such a situation is to have the consumer lobby an ISP that is available in their area to add ESPN3 (this situation was partially mitigated when Dish Network, which is available nationwide, was added as a participating provider in 2014).
Time Warner Cable & RCN do not allow internet-only and basic cable subscribers to access ESPN3; only those who subscribe to a standard cable tier or higher (and thus access ESPN's linear networks) can use the service. Thus, in these cases the cost of the service is bundled into the cable bill and not the Internet bill.
In the United States, the network is available to individuals who receive their high-speed Internet connection or cable television subscription from an affiliated service provider. Since 2008, ESPN3 has also been available to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers with college/university (.edu) and U.S. military (.mil) IP addresses. ESPN3 is only available to Internet providers who pay fees to ESPN. ESPN3 is not carried by traditional cable and satellite providers, as it is not a single channel, but streams multiple live events at the same time; however, ESPN includes a listing for a linear "ESPN3" channel (which only includes one event at a time) in the television listings on its website. As part of the wide-ranging distribution agreement that DirecTV and The Walt Disney Company announced, ESPN3 was made available to DirecTV customers in early 2015.