ESPN Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery Partner in New Sports App

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Super Bowl LVIII had one of the highest viewerships of any telecast in history. The 123 million plus people watching was second only to the moonwalk audience in 1969. It’s a testament to how important sports are to TV. Once sports moves to streaming, will anyone still subscribe to cable and satellite? It’s likely what prompted ESPN, FOX, and Warner Bros. Discovery to partner in a new sports streaming service launching in the fall of this year. The joint venture sports app will aggregate the most popular sports aimed at the passionate sports fan.

The three companies are equal partners in this joint venture, so no partner will run the new sports service, rather they will hire an independent management team to create a new separate collaborative app with an innovative approach to accessing sports streams. And while they will offer the service together, each company will retain their existing sports streaming channels.

Days after the announcement of the combined app, Disney (ESPN’s parent company) CEO Bob Iger confirmed that ESPN would launch its own standalone sports streaming service in fall 2025. Last fall, WBD announced that it was bringing sports to Max. The Bleacher Reports Sports add-on includes content from channels like TBS and TNT. The service was free for five months but will begin charging $10 starting in March 2024, just in time for the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.

Sports that have been telecast on the various Fox, Disney and WBD channels will now be available on the joint app. It will include NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, college sports, PGA TOUR, Grand Slam Tennis, the FIFA World Cup, NASCAR, and UFC, available in a single place.

Each company brings with it several sports channels. Iger explained, “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.” ESPN’s “full suite” includes 16 channels: ESPN, ESPN +, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPNews, SEC Network, SEC Network+, ACCN ESPN, ACCNX ESPN, Big 12 Now, Sooner Vision, Longhorn Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN PPV, and @ESPN. And ABC.

Fox brings Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, and the Big Ten Network (BTN). Warner Bros. Discovery comes with TNT, TBS, and truTV.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said, “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.”

The app could potentially be bundled with the companies’ main streaming services— Disney+ and Hulu, and Max. There are rumors that the price of the service alone could be as much as $45 or $50 per month.

“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,” Iger said.

After over a year of watching Iger and Zaslav reach for solutions to make their streaming services more successful, this new sports venture appears to be a solid strategy to offset the losses, reduce churn, and create a better bottom line to their stakeholders.

While these three companies have much of the major sports content, the app doesn’t include Comcast’s NBC Sports, Paramount+, and CBS Sports.

It will be interesting to watch this unfold. As sports streaming becomes aggregated and easier to find, it probably will lead to even more people cord-cutting and the possibility that it could finally kill cable and terrestrial TV providers.

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