April 13, 2024

In his first public comments about a planned sports streaming joint venture with Disney and Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said it will increase the companies’ reach and not add to their cord-cutting woes.

The JV partners “have a very rich target” of 60 million-plus sports fans who are not in the pay-TV ecosystem, Zaslav said during WBD’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “We’ll be able to go after those we are missing.”

The new service, whose name, pricing and launch date have not been announced, is “very modern,” Zaslav added, and will reduce friction in the viewing experience. “Today, when people are thinking, ‘What channel should I watch? What channel is my sport on?’ You’ll be able to go to this new product, this new app-based product, and if you watch the baseball playoffs, you’ll watch all of them and you won’t be thinking, ‘What channel is it on?’ Hockey, you’ll watch all of the hockey playoffs, right through the Stanley Cup.”

The sports bundle will offer linear streams of 14 combined networks operated by the JV partners. “We think it coexists quite effectively” with traditional linear offerings, Zaslav said. “We don’t see a lot of people un-subscribing to cable in order to get this.”

Noting he has reviewed prototypes for the service, Zaslav said, “We’re pretty far along.”

At another point in the call, the exec reiterated his belief that increased bundling of streaming services is inevitable, especially given the “confusing” state of the fragmented landscape. The goal of creating bundles like one WBD recently formed with Max and Netflix via Verizon, is to create a “simpler, easier, less anxious experience for people to find the content that they want and have it be simpler and fluid.”

Tech giants and large-scale distributors have been moving toward bundling, though content suppliers like WBD could “do it ourselves,” Zaslav said. “I’ve always advocated that we should do it ourselves. … In some ways, the sports venture is trying to meet that very need. When you put our product together with [Disney and Fox], it just has a much better, more fluid, more simple consumer experience. It’s not ‘Which channel is it on? Where do I go? How do I go? Do I have it? Don’t I have it?’ It’s in one place. More and more, we’ll be gravitating toward that.”

Max last year rolled out a live sports tier bearing the company’s Bleacher Report brand. Asked about the outlook for it in light of the multi-company sports venture, JB Perrette, CEO and President of Global Streaming and Games, said the company would “have more to say in the coming months. … In the meantime, we’re continuing to lean into our B/R Sports offering.”

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