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Networks unite to create new sports streaming platform

Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company says the new combined sports streaming offering is a win for sports fans. (Michael M. Santiago)
Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company says the new combined sports streaming offering is a win for sports fans. (Michael M. Santiago)

ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros Discovery have reached agreement on a new streaming platform for live sports content, the companies said on Tuesday.

The platform would combine the sports offerings of the three networks in one product offering content from the USA's top leagues and is planned to be launched in Autumn of this year.

The networks said in a statement that they had "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".

The companies said that the formation of the package is subject to them reaching "definitive agreements".

The product is targeted at 'cord-cutters' who prefer to subscribe to streaming services rather than traditional cable tv packages.

"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," the statement said.

Consumers would be able to bundle the product with existing broader streaming offerings from Disney+, Hulu and Max.

The new platform would provide access to ESPN's existing streaming platform ESPN+ as well as the main channels from ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros.

It would include games from the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, NASCAR, UFC, college sports, PGA Tour golf and international soccer, including the 2026 World Cup, which will be broadcast on Fox.

"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," said Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company said.

"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," he added.

While the new platform would offer plenty of sport for fans, it would not however be able to bring all the top games under one package.

The NFL dominates ratings in the USA and not all the games in the league would be included in the proposed new product.

CBS, NBC and Amazon Prime Video also own rights to nationally broadcast NFL games and Google's YouTube TV has the rights for the NFL's Sunday Ticket service which offers access to all 'out of market' games.

NBC offers streaming of sports through its Peacock service while CBS streams content on Paramount Plus.

The three networks are confident though that their package will appeal to sports fans who increasingly have to navigate a range of apps and subscriptions to follow their favourite sports.

"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," said Lachlan Murdoch, Executive Chair and CEO of FOX.

David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, said the new service would provide an "unparalleled combination of marquee sports rights and access to the greatest sporting events in the world".

"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," he said.

The statement did not give any indication of the cost of  subscription to the service.

sev/rcw