September 30, 2023

Making good on years of promises by the corporate overseers of Turner Sports, Warner Bros. Discovery is adding a live sports tier to Max.

The streaming add-on, which will carry the Bleacher Report brand now that the Turner name has faded away, will launch October 5 at $10 a month. No charge will be assessed to existing Max subscribers until next February 29. Unlike the long-defunct streaming service B/R Live, which was a stand-alone, the new offering will only be available as part of a Max subscription.

The venture widens the aperture for WBD’s coverage of the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, a joint venture with Paramount. Also in store for the new tier are celebrity golf production The Match, U.S. Soccer matches and select live international sports events such as 24 Hours of Le Mans, cycling races and on-demand programming. Studio shows like the well-regarded Inside the NBA will also be part of the add-on tier, as will Bleacher Report’s live video offerings, including its coverage of the NFL Draft and popular vodcasts featuring active players like Mookie Betts, Von Miller, Micah Parsons and Travis Hunter.

All live games airing on a Warner Bros. Discovery linear network (among them TNT, TBS and truTV) will be available on Max through the new tier, the company said. That could help insulate the company from charges of “leaking” that have amped up tensions between pay-TV operators and programmers. As evidenced by the recent battle between Charter and Disney, distributors have objected to being asked to pay higher carriage fees even as companies look for ways to leak valuable sports programming outside the pay-TV bundle and onto direct-to-consumer services.

Last May, as Max was getting set to launch as a rebranded blend of HBO Max and Discovery+ programming, WBD execs said they planned to add news and sports to it. Those vows rang familiar to anyone who has followed the long-winding saga of the home of HBO and Turner. Back when its parent was WarnerMedia and its corporate owner was AT&T, execs touted the important role that news and sports would play in their streaming mission. But for most of its existence HBO Max had remained a largely on-demand entertainment experience, while B/R Live and CNN+ came and went as stand-alones. Now, with the hub CNN Max set to launch on September 27 and the sports add-on a week later, the long-discussed vision for a more well-rounded streaming outlet is starting to take shape.

As of the most recent quarter, WBD reported having 95.8 million global streaming subscribers, most of those on Max. The new sports tier is rolling out as Warner Bros. Discovery is getting set to hold talks with the NBA about a multi-billion rights extension. The league’s current deals with Disney/ESPN and WBD will expire at the end of the 2024-25 season.

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