February 8, 2024
FOX, Warner Bros. Discovery and The Walt Disney Company through its subsidiary ESPN are finalizing plans to form a new, multi-league sports streaming service expected to launch this fall. The direct-to-consumer offering would be made available via a new app and subscriptions could also be bundled with existing services like Disney+, Hulu and Max. The media companies launching the joint venture — who will each have one-third ownership of the new platform — have yet to announce a name or pricing model, but said content will be “from all the major professional sports leagues and college sports.”
The Wall Street Journal writes that the new JV is “a deal that will reshape the sports and media landscape.”
A press release from WBD couched the formation of the new pay service as “subject to the negotiation of definitive agreements amongst the parties,” but talks are clearly advanced, as detailed in a second WSJ story that says the new service “will bring together in one streaming package all the content those companies offer — from the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB to college basketball and football.”
The deal has seismic implications “for the future of the media business,” according to WSJ, which couches it as a tipping point that potentially “dooms cable TV,” even as it will “reshape deals between networks and leagues for years to come, and will go a long way toward determining the legacies of some big-name CEOs.”
While WSJ says the partners are positioning the new venture as something that “would increase choice for fans and give a new sports-centric service to those who have cut the cord to traditional pay-TV,” there may be regulatory backlash and complaints from competitors.
“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,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said in the announcement. “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.”
The new sports streamer “is poised to have sports networks including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNews, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, BTN, TNT, TBS, and truTV,” reports The Verge, adding that in addition to the aforementioned leagues it will have “NASCAR, PGA Tour Golf, Grand Slam Tennis, and more.”