Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery announced plans Tuesday to launch a new streaming service that could become the biggest single source of sports content for cord-cutting consumers.
The three companies represent a massive share of the TV sports market, carrying games that are virtually all available online — but often only accessible with subscriptions to pricier traditional cable and satellite services.
Starting this fall, the new package could sidestep those subscriptions and deal another crushing blow to traditional TV providers.
‘This is obviously a nice, positive step for fans,’ media industry analyst Rich Greenfield, cofounder of LightShed Partners, told CNBC.
‘It’s going to make it a little bit easier to access just the content they want if they don’t care about a lot of the non-sports cable networks out there.’
This new sports package adds one more potential cost for cord-cutters who might already be running up a big digital TV bill with other providers such as Netflix, Prime Video and Peacock. However, subscribers would have the ability to bundle the new sports offering with the companies’ streaming platforms Disney+, Hulu and Max, according to CNBC.
This new Disney/Fox/Warner package was unveiled just ahead of Wednesday’s announcement by Disney that ESPN will launch its own flagship direct-to-consumer service in 2025, adding one more overlapping sports option for consumers.
Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive at Fox, told analysts on Wednesday that the new streaming platform will target millions of “cord-nevers,” mostly young adults who have never subscribed to traditional cable.
Disney carries virtually every sport under the sun, including massive investments in the NFL, NBA and college football and basketball. Those channels are ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network, ACC Network, ESPNEWS and ABC.
Fox, via its own Fox Network, FS1, FS2 and the Big Ten Network, carries Major League Baseball, the NFL and some college sports. Warner Bros.’ TNT and TBS carry the NBA and NHL.
This new bundle conspicuously does not include NBC and Paramount’s CBS. NBC carries ‘Sunday Night Football,’ some college football, golf, auto racing, horse racing and the Premier League.
CBS has the NFL, golf and some European soccer.
Sports carried by major providers like NBC and CBS are not part of this new offering. So any sports fans thinking about dumping their traditional cable provider would have to weigh all of the Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. sports vs. the loss of NBC content such as ‘Sunday Night Football’ or CBS material, such as AFC action.
‘It’s clearly not a good thing for companies like Paramount who are not being included in this,’ said Greenfield, who estimated this new service could cost between $30 and $40 a month. ‘It’s not good for NBC, although obviously within the size and scale of Comcast, I think it’s less of a negative than it probably is for Paramount.’
That price would make the new offering competitive with YouTube TV, which has become an alternative for sports fans who don’t want to pay for cable and costs $72.99 per month.
A rep for NBC Sports declined comment on Wednesday while a spokesperson for CBS could not be immediately reached for comment.
‘This is a huge move; that’s a lot of sports in your pocket,’ said University of Nevada, Las Vegas sociology professor Michael Borer, who specializes in popular culture. ‘There’s this whole movement of being able to watch a game wherever you go.’
Some individual leagues carry their own digital offerings, which often black out local games.
Baseball fans with a singular focus on the diamond could buy MLB.TV, which cost $150 last season. The NBA League Pass can be purchased by hoop-centric consumers, for the second half of this season, for $50.
The move to digital offerings took a big step in late 2022 when the NFL sold its ‘Sunday Ticket’ package, which brings games not shown on your local Fox and CBS affiliates to YouTube for $2 billion after it’d long been on satellite.
The base price for football fans who purchased their 2023 ‘Sunday Ticket’ package early was $249.
This new Disney/Fox/Warner Bros. bundle would presumably not include Fox games not shown in a viewer’s local market.
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