With each new announcement, the future of online streaming TV looks more and more like the cable and satellite past – and a new service is going to give British sports fans in particular some serious deja vu. Warner Bros. Discovery is teaming up with ESPN/Disney and Fox Sports to create a new sports bundle with its own stand-alone app.
The bundling is in part because sports streaming is all over the place, with different streamers snapping up the rights to different sports. By joining forces, firms can create something that's hopefully more affordable as well as delivering more variety: the licenses here are non-exclusive, so each firm can still license its events to other places too.
In the US, the deal will mean you'll be able to get NFL football, MLB baseball, NBA basketball, NHL hockey, NASCAR racing, PGA golf, Grand Slam Tennis and networks including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNews, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, BTN, TNT, TBS, and truTV. And in addition to the stand-alone app you'll be able to add the bundle to Disney Plus, Hulu and Max.
There are some notable omissions, however. NBCUniversal and Paramount aren't on board, and they have Sunday Night Football rights for NFL games, college rights and Olympics rights, while Paramount has CBS Sports and its afternoon NFL, its live soccer and some other college rights.
Sports bundles are big business
The idea of one sports bundle to rule them all is hardly new – it goes back to the cable and satellite era – and here in the UK we've seen similar consolidation to what's going to be happening in the US: we have Sky, of course, and there's also TNT Sports, which launched on Warner's Discovery+ service in 2023 and which is available via Discovery+, BT, EE, Sky and Virgin Media, is a rebrand of BT Sport.
It brings together the Premier League, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, the EUFA Europe Conference League, Gallagher Premiership Rugby, Heineken Champions Cup, EPCR Challenge Cup, MotoGP, cricket, UFC, boxing and WWE.
The hope is that in the long term we'll see much more fan-friendly streaming, with bundles enabling us to get all the sports fans want without having to sign up an entire stadium full of different streaming services. The fear, of course, is that fans will be asked to pay through the nose for it.