Underscoring the uncertainty, Disney’s shares declined by more than 4 percent on Wednesday, to $102.83. The company reported a 9 percent decline in quarterly profit on Tuesday, which may have led to the sell-off. Wider weakness in financial markets did not help.
Disney investors may also be worried about the enormous spending it will take to build two streaming services. Some might have been underwhelmed by the company’s plans or might have thought that the decision came much too late.
While a few ardent Disney critics held that view, most analysts applauded the company’s move.
“What Disney is doing is a really big deal in terms of trying new things, and I don’t think it even has answers to some of these questions, including what the services will cost,” said Michael Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, a media and digital video consultancy. “But it’s clearly not the end of linear television. It’s not the end of Netflix.”
Disney’s streaming plans call for the introduction early next year of a subscription service to be built around ESPN’s sports programming. It will be powered by BamTech, a technology company that handles direct-to-consumer video for baseball teams and HBO, among others. Disney paid $1 billion a year ago for a 33 percent stake in BamTech. On Tuesday, Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive, announced that Disney had accelerated an option to spend $1.58 billion for an additional 42 percent share.
But this still-unnamed subscription service is designed to protect the cable bundle, at least initially. The service will offer only sports programming that is not available on ESPN’s traditional channels. Only people who also pay to receive ESPN the old-fashioned way (via a cable or satellite hookup) will be able to stream ESPN’s core offerings, including N.F.L. and N.B.A. games.
Mr. Iger has also made an important calculation that Disney — unlike most of its competitors — has programming that is must-have in the old model (cable and satellite) and in the new (streaming). Put another way, Disney has the power to introduce streaming offerings around ESPN, Pixar films and Disney Channel shows without worrying about being dropped by third-party distributors, including upstarts like Sling TV and PlayStation Vue.
PlayStation Vue, for instance, tried to introduce a “skinny” television package without ESPN in March 2015 and drew little consumer interest. When PlayStation Vue started offering ESPN in spring…