The new joint venture between ESPN, Fox and Warner is something sports fans have been craving since the streaming wars started. Instead of flipping back and forth between apps, illegal streams and cable, all while juggling borrowed passwords and other people’s logins, we’ll be able to stay on one service and watch games with ease. If you’re asking about NBC Universal and CBS, once they see how much revenue is generated by the trio’s direct-to-consumer sports model, they’ll get in bed together and come up with a rival version of their own.
Maybe Amazon will jump between the sheets, too, and the consolidation/coup will be complete. It’s honestly shocking how willingly the American consumer feeds into monopolies, and don’t be fooled, this is a monopoly. The many middlemen who popped up like daisies — Fubo, Sling, Hulu, YouTubeTV — to try to capitalize on cord-cutters’ lust for live sports might as well start crunching the numbers to see who gets the ax in the first round of layoffs.
It’s honestly a bizarre move by Disney, who owns ESPN and Hulu, and has been shoving Hulu Has Live Sports ads, featuring I’m sure pricey athlete cameos, down our pieholes for years. The service has hit on a few originals like The Handmaid’s Tale, Only Murderers in the Building and recent Emmy darling The Bear [Ed. note: Yes, chef] but throwing in with Fox and Warner essentially kneecaps its Hulu + Live TV package.
Maybe the $76.99 per month live TV deal wasn’t selling because it’s the price of actual cable. That price point also doesn’t bode well for the cost of the ESPN-FOX-Warner venture, which hasn’t been announced yet. The self-congratulatory release added that the sports package will be bundle-able with Disney+, Hulu and Max, so Disney boss Bob Iger must really be out on Hulu’s live TV option.
However, sacrifices must be made to destroy all challengers, and that’s exactly what this move was designed to do. Death to middlemen, cable companies and the fleeting hope that cutting cords would be an affordable option. God forbid the live sports bubble bursts, or someone calls the bluffs of greedy commissioners, just pass the cost along to the general population. They’ll pay, they always do. Any argument between Comcast and Stan Kroenke over Nuggets and Avs games won’t be an argument much longer as the networks will be able to raise rates without haggling with cable companies to do it.
Netflix might want to reevaluate the gobs of cash they gambled on content that’s not self-sustainable. How much money did they give the popular Hemsworth brother, Dave Chapelle and Nic Cage? Next time throw that bag of cash at the feet of the ACC or another desperate sports entity.
Amazon’s partnership with Diamond Sports/Bally looks genius right now, and ditto for Apple grabbing a piece of MLB (and I guess MLS). Thank god Alphabet grabbed the NFL Sunday Ticket when it did, or else YouTube might’ve lost a modicum of power. It doesn’t matter that Thursday Night Football games have only been marginally better than Netflix’s worst originals, the Dallas Cowboys are more valuable than the biggest movie stars.
That’s the lesson learned here. ESPN, Fox and Warner finally realized their most precious commodities also are their most expensive. Someone was always going to have to foot the bill for the billions they shelled out on broadcast rights, and unsurprisingly, it’ll likely be the fans.