John Stankey: Live Sports Could Play Limited Role in HBO Max AVOD Rollout

With HBO Max looking to expand its presence in Latina America and Western Europe in 2021, WarnerMedia’s subscription streaming VOD platform will also tackle an ad-supported option going forward — that could include live sports.

Speaking on AT&T’s recent fiscal call, CEO John Stankey addressed a host of questions on Max and its relation to the existing pay-TV ecosystem, and its main draw: live sports. WarnerMedia’s TNT networks has major distribution agreements with the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament.

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Stankey said that live sports will remain a unique pillar of pay-TV, which he contends will be the distribution channel’s key advantage when  cord-cutting reduces the pay-TV household footprint to around 50 million to 60 million in the coming years.

“Sports content is important to our linear business, our cable networks business to make sure we have enough of it that sustains that business and keeps it at attractive must-have offering, an offering that our customers want to have in that cable bundle,” Stankey said.

At the same time, AT&T’s online TV  platform, AT&T TV, and Max aim to push WarnerMedia content beyond premium television. And live sports could be part of the mix — as professional soccer, cycling is doing in Europe. Stankey said the concept of adding live sports to streaming video distribution is appealing.

“You’ll probably see as we move through AVOD, maybe we do some additional live work that we have coming forward,” he said.

But Stankey cautioned that any move would be complementary to pay-TV and not involve growing the company’s sports footprint to include additional leagues beyond e-sports and gaming. WarnerMedia recently launched “TNT Bets,” an online companion show available through the TNT app that features live-streamed feed of the games, commentary on betting analysis and odds.

“ELEAGUE,” the interactive gaming show that airs on TBS, just partnered with Amazon’s Twitch for “Super Punch,” an interactive show where fans can discuss the most relevant gaming topics of the day and week.

“Our goal is not to become known as the sports company,” Stankey said. “I don’t see going deeper in sports is the direction for WarnerMedia.”

Cinedigm Video Gaming Streaming Service Lands on Pluto TV

Cinedigm Oct. 23 announced that its e-sports digital network, Wham, is now streaming on the online television service Pluto TV.

Launched in April, Wham covers all aspects of the gaming industry, from e-sports to casual gaming. The channel’s offerings include original series, teams competing in e-sports tournaments, and coverage of live special gaming events, as well as updates on the genre’s news.

“Pluto TV’s dynamic platform is the perfect complement to Cinedigm’s mission to redefine the traditional viewing experience,” Erick Opeka, president of digital networks at Cinedigm, said in a statement.

Pluto TV is an ad-supported online television service with more than 100 live and linear channels, in addition to movies and television series on-demand. As part of this deal, Pluto TV users will now be able to access Cinedigm content as linear networks across all streaming, mobile and web-based devices.

“We are excited to welcome Cinedigm, a veteran industry leader in digital entertainment, to Pluto TV,” said Amy Kuessner, SVP, content acquisitions, Pluto TV. “WHAM is the perfect addition to our channel lineup, as a trusted source and voice with an insider’s view and an exciting slate of programming looking at the fast-paced world of e-sports and gaming.”