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

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Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorious playing for the Yankees in 2019.
Enlarge / Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge, and Didi Gregorius playing for the Yankees in 2019, when Yankees games were easier to track down.

Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD), and Fox plan to launch an app together this fall, the companies 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 on business together. But the app could also address a pain point that impacts many streaming subscribers: Live sports have become harder to follow. As streaming services increasingly acquire 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 New York 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 Houston 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 Network) 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 no longer gave 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 revenue received from TV channels. A team effort like the one 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 moving away from things like antennas and cable subscriptions, there is 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.

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