With the way various networks and companies are pumping money into their own streaming services, it’s only a matter of time before some or all of their linear content ends up as a simulcast.
That’s not to mention companies that so far haven’t even been involved in live sports; in recent weeks Apple has been the latest to get on board, pivoting with an exclusive MLB deal and a rumored plan to bid on a huge package of NFL assets.
WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, meanwhile, has yet to really jump into that particular fray, but that has always felt like a question of when, not if. To that end, SportTechie spoke to WarnerMedia exec Peter Scott, who seemed to confirm the company’s plans on that front. Scott mentioned one of the most visible properties in the WarnerMedia portfolio, too: Turner’s NBA rights.
“It might be a destination down the road to put NBA games on HBO Max, I think there’s no question about it,” Peter Scott, WarnerMedia’s VP of emerging media and innovation, told SportTechie on Wednesday at SportsPro OTT Summit USA at Citi Field. “If we can work a deal out where the cable operators are cool with us doing that, I think you have to look at that as a potential place. And we’ll have to pay some incremental amount to be able to distribute on HBO Max.”
ESPN obviously currently simulcasts a lot of their own live games on ESPN+, and NBC does the same with Peacock. It’s not tough to imagine a scenario in which TNT NBA games are available on HBO Max. There would be a few questions to answer, though. It’s not a gift to cord-cutters if the content requires an authorized cable/satellite/provider subscription. That’s still the case with a lot of the aforementioned ESPN content, for example.
And we’re also not talking about exclusivity, either, where games would only be available on HBO Max. That, especially, seems a long way down the road at this point, as WarnerMedia would be cannibalizing itself. Could they try and carve out a different package with the NBA for some national exclusive games on streaming? Sure, of course, but the league would probably have other interest in that sort of arrangement as well, and it’s not something that comes together overnight.
Still, hearing an executive go on the record with quotes like this one:
“What we want to do with HBO Max is, we want to put live sports on it,” Scott said. “There may be a scenario where we go back to our partners with the cable operators and say ‘Hey, do you mind if you put this on HBO Max?’”
So, yes, clearly this it the plan, and live sports has proven to be one of the more sustainable ways to attract and retain subscribers to streaming products. But there are still so many details to be figured out that it’s clear nothing is likely imminent.