Behold: The Sports Streaming Bundle

Warner, Fox, Disney to Launch Streaming Sports Joint Venture
Warner Bros. Discovery, ESPN and Fox Sports will join together in a game-changing streaming outlet that will put all their sports offerings together

It just makes sense. Sports was the last thing holding together the cable TV bundle. Now it will be the start of the streaming bundle.

That's my 5-minute reaction to the truly huge news that Disney, Warner, and Fox are launching a new sports streaming service, combining their various sports rights into one package. Well, presumably. The details are still quite thin at this point. Clearly, several entities were racing to this story, with both WSJ and Bloomberg claiming "scoops" by publishing paragraph-long stories with only the high level facts. I'm linking to Variety above, which at least has a few more details, including (canned) quotes from Bob Iger, Lachlan Murdoch, and David Zaslav.

Fox Corp., Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney are set to launch a new streaming joint venture that will make all of their sports programming available under a single broadband roof, a move that will put content from ESPN, TNT and Fox Sports on a new standalone app and, in the process, likely shake up the world of TV sports.

The three media giants are slated to launch the new service in the fall. Subscribers would get access to linear sports networks including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNEWS, ABC, Fox, FS1, FS2, BTN, TNT, TBS, truTV and ESPN+, as well as hundreds of hours from the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL and many top college divisions. Pricing will be announced at a later date.

Each company would own one third of the new outlet and license their sports content to it on a non-exclusive basis. The service would have a new brand and an independent management team

Yes, this is essentially running the Hulu playbook of old, but only for sports content. No, that ultimately didn't end well, but Hulu had a decent enough run before egos got involved.1 Here, the egos are once again being (at least temporarily) set aside to do something obvious: make money. Sports is the one bit of content that most people watch in one form or another, live no less (hence why it was keeping the cable bundle together). And increasingly, with the rise of streaming, it was becoming impossible to figure out what game was on, where. You could get access to most games online now, but it might require buying four or five different services. And again, then finding which one the game you wanted was actually on.

This is a growing problem across all content in our streaming era. One that Apple, Amazon, and others have tried to solve via software aggregation, but have so far failed (thanks for nothing, Netflix – literally). So these three companies just went straight to the source: the rights they already have for sports.

The next obvious question is if they checked with the various sports leagues ahead of doing this? You have to believe they did.2 Because otherwise the lawsuits and talk of collusion start tomorrow. But that also points to the follow up then: why would the leagues agree to this? Yes, it's a better customer experience. But it will undoubtedly lead to a less frenzied bidding situation for various leagues streaming rights. Perhaps they all know how untenable this all was and are choosing to reset now, in a reasonable way.

I'm positive that's giving everyone too much credit.3 So I look forward to the reporting on this. Regardless, aside from the larger companies consolidating to merge streaming operations, this is the first step towards an inevitable new bundle. A streaming bundle.

Can't wait to hear what the price is!

1 This idea I had nine years ago certainly reads interesting in this context! Hulu, of course, would go on to make this a focal point of their marketing, but this news is more inline with what I was thinking back then.

2 In part, because none of these CEOs are Steve Jobs. Sure Iger, recently blunders aside, is legendary. But only Jobs would have pulled off this type of deal by just announcing it without checking with leagues. Because he's done something like this before, when he launched iMessage on stage at an event, noting later that the carriers found out about it just when everyone else did. On stage. We all miss Steve Jobs.

3 Another thought would be that this allows Disney to both move fast, while also moving slow (with their own stand-alone full ESPN streaming service), as they find the right partner for ESPN.