February 15, 2021
Comcast has acquired a 9.3% minority stake in fubo TV, the online TV subscription service featuring live sports and soon gambling. The corporate parent to NBCUniversal and Peacock and Xumo streaming services disclosed the stake in a Feb. 12 fiscal filing. Other media company co-owners include Disney and ViacomCBS.
Fubo TV, which launched an IPO last year, has been on a rollercoaster for investors as its stock fluctuates wildly (up 275%) on market speculation. Driving the interest is sports wagering. Fubo, like Disney, Fox and others, is looking to appeal to more than live-sports streamers through legalized gambling.
Fubo entered 2021 with about 545,000 subscribers paying from $65 monthly for access to more than 100 channels, including 40 sports-themed. The six-year-old service last year acquired Balto Sports, a backend developer of fantasy sports gaming software. Last month, fubo expanded to sports gambling by acquiring Vigtory, an interactive sports gaming company.
The moves don’t excite Richard Greenfield, media analyst with Lightshed Partners, who contends Fubo is just another online TV service struggling to compete in a market led by Hulu+Live TV, AT&T TV and Dish-owned Sling TV. Hulu has about 4 million subs, while industry pioneer Sling has slightly more than half that.
Online TV launched in 2015 as way for pay-TV operators to compete against Netflix and the rising tide of over-the-top video distributors. Despite initial success, Sling has struggled to retain subscribers. Sony shuttered PlayStation Vue, while AT&T rebooted DirecTV Now with AT&T TV.
“Fubo TV is not Netflix, Fubo is not Flutter/FanDuel, DraftKings nor even Penn/Barstool Sports, Fubo is not Roku and Fubo is not Trade Desk,” Greenfield, Brandon Ross and Mark Kelley wrote in a December post. “Fubo is simply just another virtual multichannel video programming distributor facing the same obstacles and financial challenges as every other [online TV platform].”