Disney, Fox, WBD Sports Streaming Venture Taps SiriusXM’s Jessica Casano-Antonellis as Head of Communications

Jessica Casano-Antonellis is exiting SiriusXM to join the new Disney, Fox Corp. and Warner Bros. Discovery sports-streaming venture as head of communications.

Casano-Antonellis, who was formerly PR head of PR for Disney’s streaming division, will start at the still-unnamed joint venture as senior VP of communications on Monday, May 6. Disney, Fox and WBD unveiled their partnership in February, positioning the new streaming bundle as a way to reach consumers who don’t subscribe to pay TV. It’s pegged to debut this fall.

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Pricing and a specific launch date haven’t been announced for the service, which will combine ESPN+ with the three companies’ linear TV networks that carry sports programming (ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNews, Fox, FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, TNT, TBS and truTV). Some wags have dubbed the venture “Spulu,” a portmanteau of “sports” and “Hulu,” which originally was set up as a joint venture among TV broadcasters.

Casano-Antonellis reports directly to the JV’s CEO, former Apple TV+ exec Peter Distad.

“Jessica’s extensive experience in the direct-to-consumer streaming space makes her the perfect fit for this role,” Distad said in a statement. “Her track record of navigating complex global launches and leading transformational narratives for notable brands positions her as a trusted adviser as we embark on this exciting journey.”

Casano-Antonellis commented, “It’s a privilege to join Pete at this stage in the joint venture’s development and to be part of building something destined to delight sports fans. It’s rare to get the opportunity to come in at the ground floor, and I can’t wait to get to work bringing the new streaming service to market this fall.”

Casano-Antonellis has her work cut out for her. Not only will she have to juggle the interests of the three parent companies, the Disney-Fox-WBD venture has immediately drawn controversy — and a lawsuit. The Justice Department reportedly has planned to review the three-way venture to look at anticompetitive implications, and last month two leading congressional Democrats expressed concerns that the JV may “result in higher prices for consumers and less fair licensing terms for upstream sports leagues and downstream video distributors.”

In addition, internet TV provider Fubo filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block the JV service’s launch, alleging the venture violates antitrust laws. On Thursday (May 2), Fubo, DirecTV, Dish Network, Newsmax and others sent a letter to members of Congress calling for hearings on the state of competition in the pay-TV market, specifically calling out the Disney-Fox-WBD joint venture as “rais[ing] serious competition concerns that call for Congress’s immediate oversight.”

Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch has said the company expects the sports streaming venture to reach 5 million subscribers after five years, claiming the sports streaming venture is an opportunity to reach consumers outside the current pay-TV base.

Casano-Antonellis has been SVP and head of communications at satellite radio and audio streamer SiriusXM, which she joined in May 2022. She previously spent more than four years at Disney, where she led PR for Disney+ and Hulu as VP of communications for Disney Streaming. Casano-Antonellis joined Disney in 2017 with the company’s acquisition of BAMTech Media, where she was VP of communications. Before that, she headed global communications for video-sharing platform Vimeo after nearly 10 years at PR agency Text100 (now Archetype).

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