LAS VEGAS — One day, the brilliant TV executives are all going to unite and put their programming under one roof. It will solve all your sports viewing problems. They will call it cable.
This new ESPN, Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery venture is not it. At least not yet.
There is still significance to three of the biggest brands in sports teaming up this fall to give fans another option. The Great Rebundling is upon us, but it is far from solved.
For the consumer, you won’t need this venture-to-be-named later and, my initial bet is most of you will go with that option. The service will be owned equally by the three sides, but each partner will receive the same fee as they earn from cable or YouTubeTV, according to sources with knowledge of the agreement. Just ESPN, the singular network, receives around $12 per month from cable subscribers.
So what does that mean for you? The estimated price for the new venture when you add ESPN, Fox and WBD Sports together likely will be around $40 to $50 per month. There probably are some sports fans who would like to save a little money with this arrangement, but it is hard to believe there are a lot.
You already can watch nearly everything that this trio offers through places like YouTube TV for around $70 and change per month. If you want this option, it is already available, with even more channels to boot.
After a year of talks between the three sides, there is weight in seeing these superpowers come together, and it is very understandable why they did it. It is no-risk, all-reward for them. This “sports skinny bundle” — as the cool media kids like to call it — is worth a go.
Fox Sports moves into the sports subscription space for the first time with this baby step. They have been the ones to watch their competitors pour billions into subscription streaming as they stood on the sidelines patiently biding their time. Their executives have thought rebundling is the way to go, so this gives them an initial shot.
ESPN has been planning to go direct-to-consumer with its entire product by 2025 with the possibility of 2024. Now, it will start this fall with tag-team partners.
This new arrangement doesn’t deter ESPN’s previous plans. The network still intends to have a stand-alone ESPN direct-to-consumer product by next year. Plus, it still could forge ahead with an equity partnership with the NFL or other leagues and/or digital players.
WBD Sports has an always-underrated menu of rights to bring to the new product, from the NBA and MLB playoffs to March Madness.
But the reason these entities don’t have anything complete here just yet is the exclusion of other major players — like CBS, for example.
This “sports skinny bundle” is a little too skinny to include Patrick Mahomes, Christian McCaffrey and Taylor Swift this weekend, as CBS has the Super Bowl this year. More problematic when you compare this new product to YouTube: If you want to watch March Madness, the CBS games will not be on it. It will not be one-stop shopping.
The significance of this deal could increase down the road, as the names on the press release suggested. The quotes were from the top — Disney’s Bob Iger, Fox’s Lachlan Murdoch and WBD’s David Zaslav.
However, if they want to fight the nearly unlimited pockets of Amazon, Apple or Netflix, if those digital behemoths become even more serious about sports rights, Iger, Murdoch and Zaslav could have a stronger hand as a trio.
The new entity will have its own CEO, and it is said it will operate independently. His or her bosses, though, will still be Iger, Murdoch and Zaslav, so how independent will it be? Where could it lead in the future? Will they be able to get along? If the questions can be answered positively, it could lead to something even bigger.
For you, the fan, maybe this new CEO will find a way to put everything you want to watch under one simple service. Until then, this venture won’t change that much for most of you.
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(Photo of Fox Sports’ Michael Strahan interviewing the San Francisco 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey after last month’s NFC Championship Game: Kevin Sabitus / Getty Images)