ESPN, Fox, Warner Bros. to launch joint sports streaming platform

A FOX Sports TV cameraman during the Week 5 NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 11, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.

David J. Griffin | Sportswire Icon | Getty Images

Walt Disneyit's ESPN, Fox And Discovery of Warner Bros. plans to launch a joint sports streaming service this fall, giving consumers a new way to access big-name sports live for the first time, the companies announced Tuesday.

The platform, which will be owned by a newly created company with its own management team, does not yet have a name or price. Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery will each hold a third of the shares.

Consumers could subscribe directly via a new application. Subscribers would also have the option to bundle the product with the companies' streaming platforms Disney+, Hulu and Max.

The product will be a linear network package that is slimmer than a standard cable offering, designed specifically for sports fans. It will include all broadcast and cable networks owned by Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery which broadcast sports, as well as ESPN+.

From Disney, this includes ESPN and its sister networks, such as ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNEWS, as well as the ABC broadcast network. Warner Bros. networks. Discovery that show sports are TNT, TBS and TruTV. Fox will include the Fox broadcast station as well as FS1, FS2 and BTN.

While no pricing has been determined, a logical starting point could be $45 or $50 per month with a lower introductory price to incentivize signups, according to a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named. be named because discussions around the service have been private. . A second person added that even with promotional pricing, the service would cost more than $30 per month.

The companies' long-term goal is to make the platform a home base for sports programs. Hypothetically, independent networks such as The Tennis Channel could be added to improve the offering, one of the sources said. While Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox will each own a third of the company, with rights revenue sharing proportional to what cable networks charge pay-TV providers, a second person said.

“The launch of this new sports streaming service is an important moment for Disney and ESPN, a major win for sports fans and an important step forward for the media industry,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said. in a press release. “This means the full suite of ESPN channels will be available to consumers alongside sports programming from other industry leaders as part of a differentiated sports-centric service.”

The product launch won't prevent ESPN from offering a full direct-to-consumer streaming product, which Disney is still pursuing and scheduled to launch by 2025, according to a person familiar with the matter. ESPN has already announced plans to launch this product this year or next year.

Competitors hope to form this joint service at a time when the value of sports media rights is increasing, but viewers have abandoned traditional cable viewing.

ComcastNBCUniversal and Paramount Global have not been approached to be part of the joint venture, according to people familiar with the matter. NBCUniversal likely would have balked at the idea of ​​unbundling its sports networks from its other entertainment cable channels, one of the sources said.

Still, the skinny new package could reduce cable subscribers for NBCUniversal and Paramount Worldwide. Both companies offer streaming services – Peacock and Paramount+ – that offer additional sports, including live National Football League games. This could mitigate potential revenue losses for NBCUniversal and Paramount Global.

Disney, in particular, has sought new ways to reinvent the sports business and ESPN, including seeking strategic partners such as the National Football League and National Basketball League.

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