Offering live sports games in over-the-top streaming services has become a huge deal lately. We’ve seen that both from technology companies like Apple (MLS and MLB), Google (Sunday Ticket), and Amazon (Thursday Night Football) and media companies such as Disney’s ESPN+, Comcast/NBCUniversal’s Peacock, Paramount Global/CBS’ Paramount+ and more. And the latest move along those lines comes from Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max, which has been notable for how little it’s gone into sports to date.
That service has broadcast some live soccer matches, and simulcast/replayed some HBO sports programming and docuseries, and even come up with some original documentaries. But it generally has not picked up live sports programming from linear cable corporate siblings TBS and TNT, which have significant rights to the NBA, the NHL, MLB, and more. WBD has previously hinted at doing that this fall, though, and as per a report from Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw Wednesday, they’re now set to do that. And Shaw’s report says the pricing increases for it will only kick in next year:
Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. plan to offer live sports at no additional cost on its Max streaming service for a limited period of time later this year, betting basketball, baseball and hockey will lure new customers, according to people familiar with the matter.
Customers will need to pay an additional amount for sports starting next year, likely around February or March, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing plans the company hasn’t made public.
WBD CEO David Zaslav later addressed that in comments at the Communacopia + Technology Goldman Sachs-sponsored conference Wednesday:
“When we increased the price, the loss to us has been very minimal,” Zaslav said about previous increases. He said that he believes the price for premium content has actually come down, and that he sees “more meaningful opportunities to move on price.”
…Zaslav didn’t provide details on the company’s sports plans, only teasing that more plans would come in the next few weeks.
“We have a very comprehensive strategic attack plan on sports,” he said.
It remains to be seen exactly what level of sports WBD puts on Max here, and it may not be everything they broadcast on their linear channels. But it’s certainly notable that they’re taking that step, especially around discussions that the Disney-Charter dispute (and its wide-ranging potential industry impacts) may lead to a faster-than-expected transition to over-the-top models. That would be quite different from the limited steps WBD has taken with sports content on Max so far, but it’s definitely significant to see them ramp that up.