By Richard Deitsch, Mike Vorkunov and Greg Rosenstein
ESPN, FOX and Warner Bros. Discovery are forming a new joint venture to launch a sports streaming service in fall of 2024, they announced Tuesday. This will include the companies’ portfolios of sports networks, certain direct-to-consumer sports services and sports rights.
Subscribers will have access to linear sports networks including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network, ACC Network, ESPNEWS, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, BTN, TNT, TBS, truTV and ESPN+. It can also be bundled with Disney+, Hulu and/or Max.
“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,” Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, 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. I’m grateful to Jimmy Pitaro and the team at ESPN, who are at the forefront of innovating on behalf of consumers to create new offerings with more choice and greater value.”
Added David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery: “At WBD, our ambition is always to connect our leading content and brands with as many viewers as possible, and this exciting joint venture and the unparalleled combination of marquee sports rights and access to the greatest sporting events in the world allows us to do just that. 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.”
Pricing will be announced at a later date, the statement said.
What will it mean for consumers?
That’s the biggest question at hand and we’ll learn more about this as more details come out. Among the biggest questions for me is what will the price point be for such a product? In theory, as a practical matter, to give sports fans the opportunity to purchase these significant sports properties directly without having to pay for an entertainment component is a potential game-changer.
But, again, what will the price point be? On face, it could be very good for passionate sports fans who don’t want to pay for traditional linear offerings away from sports. — Richard Deitsch, media reporter
The announcement comes at an interesting time
That this launches just months before the NBA takes its next media rights deal to market is certainly interesting timing for the league. Two likely bidders for parts of their rights package just agreed to a joint venture to stream those games starting next fall. WBD and Disney will still have their exclusivity on linear channels, so it’s not as if this is a monochannel absorbing their games. But there is now one stop shopping for consumers to watch NBA games and they’re sharing the revenue and costs for that.
What will the impact of that be on the rights fees the NBA gets? I think in one way the NBA might be happy because they do want their games to be more accessible and less split up and this new DTC app will at least allow fans to find a good number of the nationally televised games in one place. — Mike Vorkunov, national basketball business reporter
(Photo: Erica Denhoff / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)