Sport Streaming Wars: ESPN Want To Be Hub For All Live Sport Streaming

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The sports network has held discussions with major sports leagues and media partners about launching a feature on ESPN.com and its free ESPN app that will link users directly to where a live sporting event is streaming, according to people friendly with the matter.

That could include national or global streaming services, such as Apple television and Amazon Prime Video, or a domestic sports service such as Sinclair’s Bally Sports or Madison Square Garden Entertainment’s MSG+.

The actual media partners have n’t yet been determined, and there’s no timeline on when such a feature would launch, said the people, who asked not to be named because the conversations are private. Still, ESPN has broached the idea to the major sports leagues and media companies to gauge their enthusiasm, the people said.

While the business terms of the concept could still change, ESPN has considered a model in which it would take a cut of subscription earnings from a user who signed up for a streaming service through the ESPN app or website, two of the peoplesaid.However, ESPN would collect no money and just give the link as a courtesy, people familiar with the matter said, If a client already subscribes to a given service.

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ESPN may also warn users to games that air on direct television, cementing its new role as the television guide of live sports, the people said.

Several owners of regional sports networks have expressed particular optimism about the idea as they try to boost subscription earnings while leagues question the larger industry’s business prospects in a streaming-dominated ecosystem, two of the people said. CNBC previously reported that Sinclair’s Diamond Sports Group is contemplating bankruptcy restructuring after missing a $140 million debt repayment. Warner Bros. Discovery has advised leagues it plans to exit the RSN business altogether, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It’s become increasingly delicate for consumers to sort out how to find a given game as rights packages have been sculpted up by sports leagues looking to maximize carriage costs among streaming partners. A New York Yankees game for a New York- area fan could air on direct television on the YES Network, ESPN or Warner Bros. Discovery’s TBS, or it could stream on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV or NBCUniversal’s Peacock.

ESPN wants to use its self-proclaimed status as “the worldwide leader in sports ”to become the de facto first stop for all consumers looking where to watch live sports, the people said. presently, ESPN only links users to ESPN-authorized content. That amounts to almost 30 of all televised or streamed U.S. sports, according to people familiar with the matter.

ESPN’s willingness to promote other streaming services suggests a strategic shift in the streaming wars. Disney is less focused on gaining streaming subscribers and eyeballs — at all costs. Company directors have emphasized they want investors to prioritize earnings and profit rather than subscriber growth, a trend started by other media companies, including Netflix and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Media companies have also begun trading in pattern as streaming growth has slowed. That’s limited competitive pressures and promoted working together. Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery are also emphasizing licensing content to compete streaming services to increase earnings rather than keep the content exclusive.

Disney CEO Bob Iger enunciated a company-wide reorganization last month that made ESPN a standalone division, run by ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro. The move may bring ESPN’s finances under near scrutiny during earnings calls. Pitaro enunciated Wednesday he’s streamlining operation underneath him to reduce his number of direct reports.

While activist investor Dan Loeb last year pushed for Disney to spin out or sell ESPN, Iger said there are no plans for that.

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