Fox, Disney, Warner Will Tap Streaming Sports Venture in TV Upfront (EXCLUSIVE)

The three media companies planning to launch a much-scrutinized sports streamer later this year are set to give advertisers a sneak peek at the new outlet.

Fox, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery plan to use their new streaming joint-venture — the official name of the video hub has yet to be announced — to boost the impressions they have to sell to Madison Avenue during the industry’s annual “upfront” market, according to three people familiar with the matter. Each company will offer to use the audiences expected to watch the programs they contribute to the new business — and the national commercials that accompany them — to fill out advertiser schedules, these people say. The companies could also insert ads as needed in the feeds if need be, one of these people suggested.

More from Variety

Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney declined to provide comment on their plans. During the upfront, TV networks try to sell the bulk of their commercial inventory for their next cycle of programming.

While many aspects of the new service remain unknown, revelation of the aforementioned plans suggests that advertising will play a role. Many streaming services show significantly fewer commercials than their linear-TV counterparts, but the new streaming outlet is expected to offer access to networks including ESPN, TNT, ABC, Fox and Fox Sports 1, all of which rely on commercials as a significant pillar of their finances.

The price of the service is to be announced at a later date, but the companies will likely set a monthly subscription that is more than a consumer would pay for a standalone regional sports network, which costs $20 to $30 per month, and less than a larger digital programming package such as Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV, which cost around $75 to $80 per month, according to a person familiar with discussions.

The new outlet is expected to launch in the fall as the NFL season gets underway.

The plans also hint at the growing reliance traditional media companies have on sports to generate the big audiences upon which TV advertisers still rely. To be sure, more ad plans use proprietary data and programmatic buying to align commercials with specific pockets of consumers — expectant mothers or first-time auto buyers, for example — but big marketers still like to reach broad swaths of potential customers all at once, which remains a more efficient practice. Live sports broadcasts are among the few TV properties that continue to do that.

Sports are likely to play a key role in this year’s upfront. One media-buying executive familiar with early discussions between advertisers and TV networks suggests media owners may use sports to offset some of the declines expected in other parts of the business. In other words, this executive says, TV companies may use impressions from sports audiences as a means to shore up ratings declines in primetime, daytime or late-night schedules.

One challenge, of course, is that the number of people who plan to subscribe to the new joint-venture streamer is, for now, unknown. The companies have suggested the sports outlet will appeal to a generation of customers who no longer subscribe to traditional cable, but will find the sheer number of sports hours offered a compelling prospect.

One of the goals of the new business is to generate some of the revenue Disney, Fox and Warner Bros, Discovery are, like their contemporaries, losing as one-time TV viewers gravitate more readily to streaming on demand. The hope is that the new sports streamer replaces some of the distribution revenue the companies are losing as one-time subscribers get their content elsewhere. As the upfront plans reveal, perhaps there is also room to bolster ad revenue too.

The three media companies have tapped Peter Distad, a former executive at Apple TV, to serve as the new venture’s CEO. While at Apple, he worked to expand usage of the Apple TV app and the Apple TV+ video service, as well as Apple’s distribution of games from Major League Soccer.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.