Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery & Fox join forces to launch US sports streamer

LR: David Zaslav, Bob Iger, Lachlan Murdoch

Disney’s ESPN, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) and Fox have joined forces to launch a new sports streamer aimed at reasserting the companies’ positions within the US streaming landscape.

The trio will create a joint venture service that will house a raft of sports rights held by the companies, ranging from the NFL and NBA to Major League Baseball, Formula 1, the FIFA World Cup and numerous college sports.

Details around the streamer – including its name and price – are yet to be revealed but the service will offer TV channels such as ESPN, Fox, Fox Sports and TNT, in addition to a streamed offering.

Disney, WBD and Fox will own equal shares in the JV, which has been slated to launch this autumn ahead of the next full NFL season.

WBD, Disney, Fox streamer ‘important step forward’

While specifics of how the streamer will operate have not been fully divulged, potential customers will be able to subscribe to the service standalone or through existing streamers, such as WBD’s Max or Disney+.

Rights to games will be available via the streamer on a non-exclusive basis, meaning companies such as Disney would still be able to offer coverage via its ESPN streaming service and cablenets.

The JV is to have its own management team and was described by Disney CEO Bob Iger as “a major win for sports and an important step forward for the media business”.

Drive To Survive (Source: Netflix)

NBCUniversal, which recently offered an NFL game exclusively via its streamer Peacock, and Paramount are not included in the venture.

The move, which is designed to appeal to younger viewers who don’t have a pay TV subscription, comes less than a month since Netflix moved into live sports via a $5bn deal for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

The streamer had previously offered shoulder content such as Formula 1-focused Drive To Survive and, despite swerving costly sports rights, has became the dominant global streamer while WBD’s Max and Disney+ struggle to generate OTT profitability.

Tech giants such as Apple and Amazon, meanwhile, have also been spending on sports rights, acquiring Major League Baseball and NFL rights over recent years, while Google’s YouTube also struck a pact for NFL matches.

Iger said: “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.”

Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch added that the service would “provide passionate fans outside of the traditional bundle an array of amazing sports content all in one place.”

WBD chief 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.”

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