Blockbuster Media Deal Changes Sports Landscape

If you’re a sports fan all you really want to do is turn on the TV and put a game on. It’s a simple process for simple people. That all is about to change with the blockbuster media deal between Disney, Fox and Warner that is about to turn the way we watch sports on TV upside down. Until recent years and the advent of streaming broadcasts, one was either a favorable fan of cable TV or on ardent supporter of change and cable cutting. If you don’t think it matters, the Super Bowl has been the single most viewed television program in the history of broadcasting. Super Bowl 2024 was watched by a mammoth 39 million viewers, up six per cent from the previous year after Taylor Swift brought major star power to the game. The figures mean the 2024 Super Bowl was not only the highest Super Bowl TV viewership for a sports program of its kind, but for any program of all time. 

So what’s actually happening here? 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. This will have a profound effect on how sporting events are viewed in the future. If you’re a sports fan you want to know the specifics. Subscribers would get access to linear sports networks including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network, ACC Network, 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. That’s basically everything they have to offer in a nutshell.

It’s all about pricing and at what price point will the market take interest. While it hasn’t been established yet, it’s thought that this package will track somewhere between regional apps that go for $20 to $30 per month, to entire programming packages like Hulu and YouTube which go for $80 to $90 per month. So what would you be missing by subscribing only to this app? Primarily CBS and NBC Peacock. However, with that said, the combination of Fox, Warner and Disney account for roughly 85% of sports programming. 

The numbers don’t lie, and do not bode well for cable TV. Cord cutting has been a term that the likes of Comcast, Spectrum and others have feared for years. The question remains whether the world is ready to cut the cord entirely for streaming or other delivery means down the road. There are a few litmus tests of late we can look at to try and gage this. Last month’s NFL wild card game (Kansas City vs. Miami) was exclusively streamed on Peacock and averaged a record 23 million viewers. Last season, NFL Thursday Night Football, on Prime Video averaged 11.9 million viewers, a year-over-year increase of 24%. As a Prime Video subscriber myself I will say that I watched many of the Thursday night games because they were included with Prime. With that said, I don’t think I’d pay extra to watch that one game each week. According to Dave Helmreich, Chief Commercial Officer at Innovid, “TV will be 100% digital by the end of the decade, if not sooner.”


The current trio and the offering they are putting forward is similar to that of Hulu in 2007. 


The problem remains that there still isn’t a comprehensive package for viewers. As mentioned, the new American pastime, football, will still need access to Paramount’s CBS, NBC and Peacock, as well as Amazon to complete the whole picture. Here’s what the new streaming app will get you.


The new frontier of cable cutting and streaming is still a quagmire for sports fans and consumers alike, with no one-stop shopping via cable as in the past. According to Steven Bornstein, a former chairman of ESPN and a former executive with the NFL, “If the sports service does gain traction, it will deal another major blow to the cable bundle by driving more consumers to cancel their subscriptions.”

One has to also wonder whether a deal such as this will meet regulatory hurdles. If you are on the outside looking in, like Fubu and other streamers not included in the new deal, I think you might cry foul, and allege that this could constitute a monopoly with anti-trust implications regarding pricing of the new streaming app. According to Michael Katz, an economist at the University of California Berkeley, “The Justice Department might look at the potential impact on prices for sports programming and whether Disney and its partners would have an incentive to withhold that content from cable companies or rival streaming services.” One thing is for sure. The days of being able to turn on the TV and watch sports on cable is over. But actually, how different is it if you turn on the TV and all your sports and shows are on the same streaming app? They get you coming or going.