A trio of US media giants – Fox Corp, Disney, and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) – have announced the formation of a joint-venture streaming service that will combine the trio’s respective sports offerings into one over-the-top (OTT) service.
The service, as yet unnamed, will combine the sports offerings of Fox’s Fox Sports channels, Disney’s ESPN set of channels, and WBD-owned TNT Sport, among other offerings.
Once active, the service will broadcast offerings from all of the US’ major properties, namely American football’s NFL, baseball’s MLB, basketball’s NBA and WNBA, ice hockey’s NHL, soccer’s MLS, and motor racing's NASCAR.
Golf’s PGA Tour, mixed martial arts promotion UFC, and soccer’s FIFA World Cup competition will all also be included, among other high-profile sports offerings.
The sports content will be licensed to the service by each of the three companies on a non-exclusive basis, allowing them to maintain their linear output streams.
The service is scheduled to launch in Autumn 2024, with each of the three joint-venture partners holding a third of the stake each, and having equal representation on the board.
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It will all be contained on a new app built from the ground up, to which ESPN’s ESPN+ OTT service will also be included. It will have its independent management team.
Bob Iger, Disney Corporation chief executive, stated of the deal: “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.
"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.”
WBD chief executive David Zaslav added: “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 firms stated that details such as pricing and format will be revealed closer to the product’s launch, however the multiple services
The announcement of the joint-venture streaming service could strike a major blow to the traditional cable TV services in the US. GlobalData’s ‘United States Pay-TV Forecast’ report found that total US pay-TV household penetration has fallen greatly, from 2009-2010 when penetration exceeded 85%, and will fall to around 32% in 2028.
GlobalData analyst Tammy Partner said of the deal: “This is a blockbuster deal that will further decimate the traditional US pay-TV sector. For many viewers, sports has been the thread keeping them attached to pay TV, but that thread frays a bit more every time a streaming video provider gains control of popular live sports programming.”
“Having ESPN, Fox, and WarnerBros. Discovery combining their vast portfolios of sports content into a single streaming service will make sports fans think twice about subscribing to pricey linear programming bundles offered by cable and satellite TV providers. The lure of an all-in-one app with a smorgasbord of appealing sports content will be tough for sports fans to resist.”
“The new sports service will be positioned to build a healthy subscriber base quickly. In addition to siphoning off subscribers from cable and satellite TV providers, which are considered multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), it will also pose a significant threat to other sports-oriented streaming services, such as FuboTV, a virtual MVPD with a focus on live sports.”
“The JV planned by these three leading media companies also reflects the growing importance of live event programming in general for streaming service providers. That is the reason Netflix recently signed a deal worth more than $5 billion for exclusive rights to World Wrestling Entertainment's popular Raw program starting in January 2025.
"But live events do not need to be restricted to sports, or hybrid sports-entertainment programming as in the case of Raw, to create must-see, destination programming. Pure entertainment events such as live comedy stand-up specials or concerts are also fair game for streamers seeking to create higher engagement with viewers.”