Upon reading earlier this week about a new sports streaming platform set to launch in the fall — a joint venture of ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery, heavy hitters to be sure — my reaction went from intrigue to skepticism in a hurry.
There are a lot of channels included: 15 networks — ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SEC Network, ACC Network, ESPNEWS, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, Big Ten Network, TNT, TBS, truTV — as well as ESPN+.
What we don't know: How much it will cost, though a good guess is a lot more than a standalone streaming package for a regional sports network and considerably less than a fuller streaming package offered by Hulu or YouTube TV. Somewhere between $40 and $55 seems likely.
What do the leagues that partner with ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. think of all this?
And the biggest one of all: Who exactly is the audience for it?
It's not the hard-core local sports fan. Regional sports networks are not part of the package. Fans who want to watch local teams, especially in baseball, are likely headed toward a time in 2025 where they either pay for them as part of a cable/satellite bundle as standalone monthly subscriptions, as I talked about on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.
Buying this bundled platform would get you access to a lot of sports, including everything on ESPN. But it wouldn't get you programming on NBC or CBS, among others.
If the bet is that sports fans will be likely to downgrade from traditional cable/satellite or a more complete streaming package to a cheaper sports-only platform like this, the lack of regional sports and major NFL carriers seems problematic (as does the absence of other non-sports channels that current subscribers might value).
If the bet is that a younger fan who doesn't currently subscribe to anything will be wooed by this platform, that seems even less likely. The price tag will be one of several barriers.
In my VERY unscientific poll on Twitter/X, only 8.5% of respondents said they are "absolutely" interested in this platform. Another 45% said yes, but it depends on the price. It's hard for me to imagine a price that's both low enough to entice subscribers and high enough to make it worthwhile for ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros.
I can't shake the idea that this is something cooked up out of desperation by major players grasping to hold onto market share. Maybe I'll be proven wrong.
At the very least, I think these words from Rick Ellis at Too Much TV are spot-on:
There should be a press moratorium on using the phrase "game changer" in relation to this idea. It's clear that there are still a number of unresolved issues to work out. And there is a not small chance that this could grab a lot of subscribers and also lose an immense amount of money for the joint venture.
Here are four more things to know today:
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