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New streaming app from Fox, Disney, WBD is about more than sports


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Not exactly a college football topic I know, but I thought this was interesting for those of us who enjoy watching live sports and what that entails regards the multitude of streaming services that are out there:  https://arstechnica.com/culture/2024/02/new-streaming-app-from-fox-disney-wbd-is-about-more-than-sports/


Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), and Fox plan to launch an app together this fall, they announced Tuesday. The unnamed app will unite the sports offerings of the three media conglomerates, including their reported 85 percent ownership of US sports rights. The app could simplify things for sports fans while signaling a bundled future for streaming services—which could ultimately prove good or bad for subscribers.

The new app will give subscribers access to ESPN+ and various linear channels that show live sports, including ABC, FOX, TNT, TBS, truTV, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, FS1, FS2, SECN, ACCN, and BTN. The companies' announcement promised access to "thousands of events" through the app, including from the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, and NHL, as well as PGA, Wimbledon, UFC, and Formula 1 events, the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, the FIFA World Cup, and college sports. An anonymous person "familiar with the matter" told Variety that the app won't make original content.

People will be able to bundle the sports app with Disney-owned streaming services Disney+ and Hulu, as well as with WBD's Max streaming app. The upcoming app will particularly target "those outside of the traditional pay TV bundle," the announcement said.

The companies announced that they “have reached an understanding on principal terms to form a new Joint Venture (JV) to build an innovative new platform to house a compelling streaming sports service.” Each company will own a third of the JV and license their content non-exclusively. The app's creation is still "subject to the negotiation of definitive agreements amongst the parties.”

The companies said they'd share the price and other details for the app "at a later date." An anonymous person "familiar with current discussions" claimed to Variety that the app will likely cost more than $20 -$40 per month but less than $75-$80. Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at the UK's PP Foresight, is expecting around $50 per month, "with promos and discounts," per The Hollywood Reporter.

As streaming got bigger, watching sports got harder

News of the app brings the same type of trepidation that typically comes with mega corporations embarking in business together like this. But the app could also address a pain point impacting many streaming subscribers, which is that live sports have become harder to follow. With streaming services increasingly acquiring rights to sporting events, keeping up with your favorite team can feel like a chase.

For example, in 2019, after a yearslong hiatus from watching Yankees games, I heard the team made it to the playoffs. I didn't have any TV-related subscriptions: I didn't have cable or an account with any streaming services at the time (password sharing was alive and well then). Yet, that night I was easily able to watch the Yankees beat the Astros. After work, I bought a cheap antenna from RadioShack and watched the game broadcast on my local Fox affiliate. With my Yankees interest rejuvenated, I used that same sub-$20 antenna in 2020 to access a couple of cable channels (primarily the Yankees-owned YES) to watch pretty much every game in that season that I wanted.

Jump to the 2023 season, and accessing the bulk of Yankees games meant subscribing to numerous streaming services: Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and NBCUniversal's Peacock. And my antenna, believe it or not, no longer got me access to any live Yankees games.

A unified sports app would help address such struggles, especially for people who watch a lot of sports. It also comes as streaming services are more aggressively seeking rights to sporting events (see: Netflix spending $5 billion on WWE Raw) and as media outlets like The Information report that sporting entities, like the NBA, are looking to increase the amount of revenue received from TV channels. A team effort like the one we're seeing from Fox, WBD, and Disney could help companies manage increasing licensing costs alongside declining revenue from traditional TV.

Live sporting events are one of the last things preventing people from cutting the cord. While people are rapidly moving from things like antennas and cable subscriptions, there's still interest in accessing live TV, as demonstrated by YouTube TV announcing this week that it has surpassed 8 million subscribers; it's the only cable TV service actually growing. The new WBD-Disney-Fox app could pave the way for evolving sports-viewing in an undoubtedly streaming future.

This doesn’t solve all the problems

There are many uncertainties around the newly announced sports app. As noted by the announcement, the app isn't finalized, and plans could change. But based on what we know so far, there are reasons to worry that there will still be confusion for streamers after the app launches.

For one, this doesn't signal the end of new streaming apps. Disney still plans to make a dedicated app for streaming ESPN, The Information reported this week. Variety reported that companies like Paramount Global and Comcast weren't contacted for this deal because WBD, Fox, and Disney "control approximately 85% of the US sports rights market" and thought that "bringing in more partners would make the structure unwieldy and make the price of a subscription too high." There have been no reports of this yet, but it's a possibility that companies left out of the deal could concoct their own subscription-based response.

Also unclear at this stage is the impact that heightened focus on bundling streaming services will have on customers. For example, the upcoming sports app bundles various media giants' offerings, and the app can be bundled with other apps owned by the upcoming app's owners. That could be convenient; it could also feel bloated and confusing.

As companies seek to bundle their services with other streaming services and subscriptions, like cell phone service, customers stand the risk of ending up back in a cable-like conundrum centered on complicated plans that make it hard to understand how much money you’re wasting on stuff you don’t actually watch, have confusing payment structures, and are hard to get out of.

It's a pivotal time as the shift to streaming continues relentlessly. Live sports is one of the last pieces of the puzzle for streaming services to figure out. Of course, there's a chance that Big Media will mess it up. But there's also still hope that streaming can ultimately make sports more accessible and simple. But if successful, the new WBD-Disney-Fox app could help finally push traditional TV over the edge, making my TV antenna more useless than it already is.

Personally I'm skeptical, but we'll have to wait and see.


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