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ESPN, Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery Plan New Sports Streaming Service

by March 11, 2024
New Sports Streaming Service

New Sports Streaming Service

ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery are joining forces to build a new sports streaming service that will combine live TV with on-demand content. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Who is asking for yet another streaming service? Most of us are already drowning in subscriptions to services like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, Max, Paramount+, AppleTV+, Starz, Peacock, and so on. According to Digital Trends, ESPN+ is currently the 8th-most-popular streaming service, with 26 million subscribers. But that’s not a huge number when you consider how many people watch sports here in the United States. Super Bowl LVIII drew over 123 million viewers, and that pales in comparison to the number of people worldwide who watch professional soccer. Some sports fanatics, like my friends Matt N. and Mary P., are among the last holdouts helping to sustain the cable/satellite TV industry in a world that has largely cut the cord and moved to streaming for all entertainment. So far, no single streaming service has been able to compete with the sports packages offered by cable companies. Sports fans, therefore, represent one of the last untapped sources of potential streaming revenue. And now, ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery are making a play for all that cash. 

We’re pumped to bring the FOX Sports portfolio to this new and exciting platform. We believe the service will provide passionate fans outside of the traditional bundle an array of amazing sports content all in one place.

— Lachlan Murdoch, Executive Chair and Chief Executive Officer of FOX

The companies have agreed to terms to build “an innovative new platform to house a compelling streaming sports service,” according to a press release from ESPN. The platform will combine the companies’ portfolios of sports networks, including content from “all the major professional sports leagues,” plus college sports from every region of the USA. Certain direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports services will also be included. This isn’t a done deal — ESPN’s lawyers clarified that the formation of the new service is still subject to the negotiation of definitive agreements among the parties. But the companies aren’t dragging their collective feet. The announcement of the joint venture included an estimated launch date of autumn, 2024. The service will be offered as a standalone subscription via a new app, but will also be offered as part of bundle deals including Disney+, Hulu, and/or Max. (ESPN, Disney+, and Hulu are all subsidiaries of The Walt Disney Company; Max is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery.) The new app will be built from the ground up, according to ESPN.

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.

— David Zaslav, Chief Executive Officer of Warner Bros. Discovery

According to the announcement from ESPN, the new platform will collect and consolidate content to offer viewers “an extensive, dynamic lineup of sports content, aiming to provide a new and differentiated experience to serve sports fans, particularly those outside of the traditional pay TV bundle.” The streaming service would amalgamate a variety of live TV networks, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNEWS, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, BTN, TNT, TBS, and truTV. The service would also include all content currently offered by the ESPN+ streaming service, and certain DTC sports content and services. A subscription to this all-in-one premier sports service would potentially allow sports-focused viewers to (finally) abandon their bloated, convoluted, and overpriced cable and satellite packages, which are almost always diluted with channels and content that nobody cares about. (Of course, the world of streaming services isn’t perfect either. Chief Audioholic Gene DellaSala and I were just discussing many of the downsides to streaming, which Gene will be covering in more detail soon. Among these are rising prices, disappearing features, and vanishing content.) 


The new streaming sports service would be owned equally by the three entities in question. ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery would have equal board representation, and license their sports content to the new service on a non-exclusive basis, allowing each company to continue operating existing services (such as ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass). The companies would still be free to license their sports content to cable/satellite providers and other content delivery companies. The new service would reportedly have a new brand with its independent management team. 

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. 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.

— Bob Iger, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company

More details, including pricing and an exact launch date, will be announced later this year. As of now, we know that ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery have promised access to content from the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and Formula 1 racing. UFC fighting, PGA Tour golf, Grand Slam tennis, and the FIFA World Cup will also be covered, along with professional cycling, swimming, volleyball, and more. College sports coverage will reportedly include “thousands of games and events (from) multiple sports, across nearly two dozen conferences” from all over the country, including the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, and SEC. The service will provide access to 40 NCAA championship events, including the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and college football playoffs. The new service is expected to launch in the United States, but the inclusion of wide soccer coverage could give it worldwide appeal (assuming the broadcast rights could be secured for sporting events in other countries). The service will include soccer content from FIFA, U.S. Soccer, NWSL, MLS, LALIGA, Bundesliga, UEFA, and CONCACAF. 

There are no current plans for the new app to incorporate sports content from CBS Sports, Paramount+, or the Comcast-owned NBC Sports, so some sports fans may not find this new app to be a truly all-in-one solution. Pricing will also be a key factor to this app’s success, but so far there has been no word on that front. Have you cut the cord for good, or has your love of sports kept you hooked on cable? Share your thoughts in the related forum thread below.


About the author:
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Jacob is a music-lover and audiophile who enjoys convincing his friends to buy audio gear that they can't afford. He's also a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles.

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