Accelerating its move into streaming, media conglomerate Warner Bros. Discovery announced Tuesday that it will offer its full slate of major sporting events to subscribers of its Max streaming service, including NBA, NCAA Men’s March Madness, NHL, MLB and US Soccer games. 5 October
The sports tier, known as the Bleacher Report Sports Add-on, will launch in time for Major League Baseball’s National League Division Series, featuring the Dodgers. The Sports tier will cost the highest subscribers an additional $9.99 per month.
As part of a one-time promotion, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports will make the add-on available to Max subscribers at no extra charge until February. The service is only available in the United States
Max’s standard subscription with ads sells for $9.99 per month The ad-free version costs $15.99 a month
Cable subscribers will still have access to sports events on the linear Turner channel, TNT and TBS included in their package. The Bleacher Report Sports add-on will be a simulcast of games played on the linear channel with commercials.
The move comes amid much upheaval in the traditional pay-TV landscape as major programmers cut the cable cord or race to reach subscribers who never signed up for traditional channels. Companies like Warner Bros. Discovery are treading the hard path because the bulk of their profits come from programming fees paid by pay-TV distributors (cable and satellite companies) and they don’t want to alienate their longtime partners.
Warner Bros. Discovery relies on fees paid by distributors to carry its channels, including TNT, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, Discovery I/D and Animal Planet. The company generated $5.7 billion in revenue from its network division in the second quarter, more than half of which came from distribution fees.
This year, growth for Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming products, including Max and Discovery+, has stalled. The company reported about 96 million global streaming subscribers at the end of June, compared with 97.6 million in the previous quarter.
For much of the year, Warner Bros. Discovery Chief Executive David Zaslav and his lieutenants have been focused on reducing the huge financial losses in its streaming divisions.
Zaslav says streaming is now a break-even business. Rolling out a sports add-on follows Zaslav’s promise to make Max a robust service with scripted programming from HBO and other channels, as well as news and sports.
Starting September 27, the company will offer a live streaming version of CNN on Max, giving subscribers content from the news channel without a pay-TV subscription. CNN on Max is available at no additional charge.
Sports leagues and programmers have embraced streaming as the future of television. The NFL has licensed “Thursday Night Football” to Amazon Prime Video, and an NFL playoff game will be shown on NBCUniversal’s Peacock early next year. Apple TV+ includes professional football and Friday night MLB games. For nearly a decade, Tennis Channel has offered matches on its companion streaming service.
Warner Bros. Discovery said the Bleacher Report sports add-on package will include studio shows, such as “Inside the NBA,” and other live content, along with some international sporting events such as cycling and auto racing.
It will include more than 300 live games.
“We’re thrilled to offer WBD’s incredible portfolio of premium US live sports — featuring simulcasts of our must-see MLB, NHL, NBA, NCAA and US Soccer events — as part of B/R’s extensive portfolio of sports add-ons to Mandatory Multi on Max. -for sports content,” JB Perrett, chief executive and president of the company’s global streaming and games division, said in a statement.
Walt Disney Co., among others, is weighing the benefits — and risks — of bypassing pay-TV distributors, its longtime partners including Charter Communications and DirecTV, to offer top-flight sports directly to consumers.
Disney removed its channels from Charter’s Spectrum TV service for more than 10 days this month after a dispute erupted over plans to offer the Burbank entertainment company’s flagship ESPN channel directly to consumers. Disney executives said they did not say when ESPN would begin selling directly to consumers or set a price for the service.
Sports costs continue to rise, including NFL football. ESPN is the most expensive channel in the cable bundle.
Warner Bros. Discovery executives don’t believe their sports add-on will be disruptive to pay-TV operators because their customers will have little incentive to pay an extra $10 a month for the streaming add-on when they already have those games on. TNT and TBS.