ESPN, Fox & Warner Bros. Discover to Launch Sports Super App this Fall

Super Bowl LVIII had one of the highest viewerships of any telecast in history. With 123 million-plus viewers, the game was second only to the historic lunar landing in 1969, which drew 650 million viewers. It’s a testament to how important sports are to TV and begs the question: Once sports moves to streaming, will anyone still subscribe to cable and satellite?

It's likely the idea that prompted ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) to partner in a new sports streaming service slated to launch in the fall. Aimed at passionate sports fans, the super app will aggregate the most popular sports in one place.

The three companies are equal partners in the venture, meaning no single partner will run the new streaming service. Instead, they are hiring an independent management team to create a collaborative app. And while they will offer the service together, each company will retain its existing sports streaming channels.

Days after the announcement of the combined app, Bob Iger, CEO of ESPN parent Disney, confirmed that ESPN would also launch its own standalone sports streaming service in the fall of 2025. Last fall, WBD announced that it was bringing sports to Max (formerly HBO Max) through the new Bleacher Reports add-on service, which includes content from TBS, TNT, and other channels. The service launched offering five free months of viewing but will start charging $10 next month (March 2024), just in time for the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament.

Drawing from sports that have been telecast on Fox, Disney, and WBD channels, the as-yet-unnamed sports streaming service will provide access to NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and college games in addition to the PGA Tour, Grand Slam Tennis, the FIFA World Cup, NASCAR, and UFC — all in one place.

Each company brings with it several sports channels. “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," Iger explained. ESPN’s “full suite” includes 16 channels: ESPN, ESPN +, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPNews, SEC Network, SEC Network+, ACCN ESPN, ACCNX ESPN, Big 12 Now, Sooner Vision, Longhorn Network, ESPN Deportes, ESPN PPV, and @ESPN. And ABC.

Fox will bring Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, and the Big Ten Network (BTN) to the service, while Warner Bros. Discovery contributes TNT, TBS, and truTV.

“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 Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav. "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.”

The new app could potentially be bundled with the partner companies’ main streaming services — Disney+ and Hulu, and Max. There are rumors that the price of the service alone could be as much as $45 or $50 a month.

“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,” Iger said.

After over a year of watching Iger and Zaslav grapple for solutions to make their streaming services more successful, this new sports venture appears to be a strategy to offset losses, reduce churn, and improve the bottom line of each company.

While these three companies provide much of the major sports content, the app doesn’t include Comcast’s NBC Sports, Paramount+, and CBS Sports.

It will be interesting to watch this unfold. As sports streaming becomes more aggregated and easier to find, it could lead to an increase in cord-cutting. Will it be the nail in the coffin of cable and terrestrial TV providers? We'll have to wait and see.

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