ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery announced plans on Tuesday to launch a sports streaming platform in the fall that will include offerings from at least 15 networks and all four major professional sports leagues.
A one-stop app to view most sports should be a welcome sight for fans, who continue to navigate rising costs by subscribing to multiple services.
Kevin Krim, the president and CEO of the ad measurement firm EDO, compared the three companies teaming up for sports like what some networks did when Hulu started in 2008.
“My sense is knowing the cast of characters, they’re looking at the original Hulu concept and thinking, ‘Well, that worked out really well for us.’ So let’s do that again. But for live sports streaming,” he said.
The three companies will each share one-third ownership in the joint venture. A name for the service and pricing will be announced at a later date.
“This new sports service exemplifies our ability as an industry to drive innovation and provide consumers with more choice, enjoyment and value and we’re thrilled to deliver it to sports fans,” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said in a statement.
The platform will include games from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, WNBA, NASCAR and college sports, including the men's and women's NCAA Tournament, as well as golf, tennis and the FIFA World Cup.
It will include offerings from 15 linear networks — ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network, ACC Network, ESPNEWS, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, TNT, TBS, truTV — and ESPN+.
Subscribers would also have the ability to bundle the product with Disney+, Hulu and/or Max.
“We believe the service will provide passionate fans outside of the traditional bundle an array of amazing sports content all in one place,” Fox CEO and Executive Chair Lachlan Murdoch said in a statement.
The announcement of the bundle also comes as ESPN and Warner Bros. Discovery are preparing to enter negotiations to renew their NBA rights, which expire at the end of next season.
“To me, the thing that’s triggering all this is the NBA. We see time and again that the NBA is the second-best franchise on TV behind the NFL,” Krim said. “You're sort of staring at that renegotiation and new bids coming in that could include Google, Amazon, Netflix, Apple and others. It's a good way to team up and stay competitive.”
ESPN has also been searching for strategic partners as it prepares to launch a direct-to-consumer product in the next year or two.
“The launch of this new streaming sports service is a significant moment for Disney and ESPN, a major win for sports fans, and an important step forward for the media business,” Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger said in a statement. “This means the full suite of ESPN channels will be available to consumers alongside the sports programming of other industry leaders as part of a differentiated sports-centric service.”
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