ESPN, Fox Corp., and Warner Bros. Discovery are joining forces to launch a sports streaming platform aimed at becoming a one-stop shop for sports fans. The platform will feature content from every major league and is designed to bring an easy-to-use service to younger generations that have moved beyond cable.
Each of the three media behemoths will own one-third of the service, which does not yet have a name. It is set to be launched in fall 2024. Pricing has not been established but it will likely be competitive with other major streaming services like Netflix and HBO.
Apple TV+ acquired the rights to Major League Soccer (MLS) and, with it, the games of star player Lionel Messi, who singlehandedly caused the sales to skyrocket.
ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery plan to launch a joint sports streaming service this fall, giving consumers a new way to access marquee live sports for the first time, the companies say. https://t.co/MrZrRoXyof
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 7, 2024
But this new mega service could deal the death blow to cable, as sports access has up until now been the main justification for the continued existence of cable packages. With those gone, cable may begin to unravel.
Up until now, streaming services have had little luck persuading sports leagues to give them streaming rights, as cable has offered far greater returns due to the hefty price tag associated with traditional plans. Sports leagues are more compliant than ever to help facilitate the change, though, as the number of cable viewers has been dwindling in recent years.
This move also shows Disney is trying to keep its options open on the future of its subsidiary, ESPN. It had announced in July 2023 that it was seeking a strategic partner for future ESPN ventures, and still plans to release an ESPN streaming app for those who do not want the new platform shared with Warner and Fox, according to sources close to the situation.
In July, Disney CEO Bob Iger told an NBC reporter: “We just have to be open minded … [cable TV’s] distribution model, the business model that forms the underpinning of that business, and that [has] delivered great profits over the years is definitely broken. And we have to call it like it is and that’s part of the transformative work we’re doing.”
Analysts at Citi estimate that this new platform will encompass 55 percent of American sports rights, according to a memo released on Tuesday.
Shane Devine is a writer covering politics, economics, and culture for Valuetainment. Follow Shane on X (Twitter).