Advanced Television

ESPN, Fox, WBD team on new sports platform

February 7, 2024

ESPN, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, Fox and Warner Bros Discovery have agreed principal terms to form a new Joint Venture (JV) to build a platform to house a streaming sports service in the US.

The platform will bring together the companies’ portfolios of sports networks, certain direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports services and sports rights – including content from all the major professional sports leagues and college sports. The formation of the pay service is subject to the negotiation of definitive agreements amongst the parties. The offering, scheduled to launch inautumn 2024, would be made available directly to consumers via a new app. Subscribers would also have the ability to bundle the product, including with Disney+, Hulu and/or Max.

The platform would aggregate content to offer fans an extensive lineup of sports content – including NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, UFC, F1 and more – aiming to provide a new and differentiated experience to serve sports fans, particularly those outside of the traditional pay-TV bundle.

By subscribing to this focused, all-in-one premier sports service, users would have access to the linear sports networks including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNEWS, ABC, Fox, FS1, FS2, BTN, TNT, TBS, truTV, as well as ESPN+.

Bob Iger, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, commented: “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.”

Lachlan Murdoch, Executive Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Fox, said: “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.”

David Zaslav, Chief Executive Officer of WBD, 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.”

Commenting on the deal, Dan Goman, CEO and founder of Ateliere Creative Technologies, said: “The strategic alliance between ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery to launch a sports streaming platform announced this week has the potential to shift the way sports fans watch their favourite games, by creating a one-stop-shop for live sporting events and original programming – all available via a new app (name and price TBD). Through consolidation of their content libraries and sports programming under one streaming umbrella, Max, Hulu, and Disney+ subscribers will gain access to the service as part of a ‘bundle.’ It offers a ‘skinnier’ alternative to the bloated cable bundles – an offering specifically tailored for sports fans. This not only further accelerates the decline of the traditional cable subscription, it also represents another big step towards the idea of ‘Cable 2.0’ – the recreation of the original cable model, now on digital. Additionally, this presents a unique and rare opportunity for these companies to do something different on a technological level, perhaps resulting in greater innovations in streaming quality and personalised content recommendations, enhancing the overall user experience.”

“This deal will lead to a significant boost in subscriptions and revenue for the companies, as consumers will find the bundled offering more valuable than subscribing to each provider’s individual services. It’s noteworthy that this announcement aligns closely with Disney’s first quarter earnings release. Despite exceeding expectations, the earnings reflect the impact of the accelerated shift away from traditional cable, underscoring the evolving dynamics of media consumption. Disney has been struggling to find ways to pivot from legacy media and find new strategies to boost subscriptions,” he concluded.

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