ESPN, FOX and Warner Bros. Discovery forge streaming alliance for sports coverage
ESPN, FOX and Warner Bros. Discovery have announced plans for a collaborative streaming venture focused on the sports content they collectively hold rights to.
Kayo Sports, renowned for its robust Australian sports streaming service, has been a trailblazer in this arena. Now, the United States is poised to emulate much of Kayo’s success. The majority of sports rights featured on Kayo are under the control of News Corp. However, there are exceptions, such as the ESPN content also available on Kayo.
The joint venture in the US aims to amalgamate both traditional linear TV sports broadcasts and direct-to-consumer streaming platforms like ESPN+.
Sports enthusiasts in the US can anticipate a diverse array of offerings, including NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, College Sports, UFC, PGA TOUR Golf, Grand Slam Tennis, the FIFA World Cup and cycling.
Sports rights managed by Paramount’s CBS and Comcast’s NBC will not be included.
While many details about the new service remain undisclosed, including its name, launch date and pricing structure, the partners have confirmed that the content will be delivered through a new app designed to cater to sports fans’ needs.
According to reports from the Wall Street Journal, ESPN may still offer a standalone service for subscribers who prefer not to opt for the bundle. It’s estimated that the three partners collectively control approximately 55 percent of all US TV sports rights.
This partnership coincides with negotiations between ESPN, Warner Bros Discovery and the NBA for a new 10-year rights deal, with Fox reportedly unlikely to bid for rights.
“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,” asserted Bob Iger, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company.
“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, added, “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.”
In a joint statement, the partners announced that ESPN (a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company), Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery have agreed on principal terms to establish a new joint venture.
The establishment of the venture is contingent upon the negotiation of definitive agreements among the parties involved.
Each entity will possess a one-third stake, ensuring equal board representation and licensing their sports content to the joint venture on a non-exclusive basis.
“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,” said David Zaslav, chief executive officer of Warner Bros Discovery.
“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.”
Although the exact launch date remains unknown, the partners are targeting a US autumn debut, possibly between March and May. The start of the Major League Baseball season on March 28 could serve as an opportune launch date, although not all MLB games will be available on the new service.
Subscribers will also have the option to bundle the sports service with other subscriptions, including Disney+, Hulu and/or Max.
This streaming model may soon become available to Australian sports fans as well. As part of the Foxtel Group’s new Hubbl service, there may be offerings of Kayo Sports as part of bundled subscriptions with other streaming platforms.