Remember Mega Powers uniting? When Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan were a team?
That’s a good comparison to the news that dropped on the morning of February 7, as some of the biggest players in televised sports announced a union for a sports app.
ESPN, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company, FOX and Warner Bros. Discovery have agreed to start a new, standalone shared sports app that will launch later this year in the United States.
The offerings will include NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL, NASCAR, US college sports, UFC, PGA TOUR Golf, Grand Slam Tennis, the FIFA World Cup, cycling … and the always fun “much more.”
Left out of the list is pro wrestling, for the moment, but with AEW running its programming on Warner Bros. Discovery stations, it’s a possibility.
According to the press release, the “Joint Venture” intends to “build an innovative new platform to house a compelling streaming sports service. The platform brings together the companies’ portfolios of sports networks, certain direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports services and sports rights – including content from all the major professional sports leagues and college sports. The formation of the pay service is subject to the negotiation of definitive agreements amongst the parties. The offering, scheduled to launch in the fall of 2024, would be made available directly to consumers via a new app. Subscribers would also have the ability to bundle the product, including with Disney+, Hulu and/or Max. The platform would aggregate content to offer fans an extensive, dynamic lineup of sports content, aiming to provide a new and differentiated experience to serve sports fans, particularly those outside of the traditional pay TV bundle.”
It’s a lot of press release jargon, but for sports fans, it could be, ahem, game-changing.
It also shows a level of cooperation — each of the three major companies will own a third — that was unimaginable back in the highly competitive days of network television.
All the bigwigs got a say in the press release too:
- Bob Iger, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company: 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. 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: “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.”
- David Zaslav, Chief Executive Officer of Warner Bros. Discovery: “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. 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.”
It is only an American deal, since individual sports have different deals in different countries, like the NHL’s exclusive national deal with Rogers-owned Sportsnet in Canada.
All three major entities have a history with pro wrestling on their channels.