ESPN Sublicenses Select College Football Playoff Games to TNT, Max Streaming

ESPN and TNT Sports have reached a five-year deal for TNT Sports to sublicense and broadcast (and stream via B/R Sports on Max) for the first time select college football playoff games from ESPN, beginning with the upcoming college football season.

TNT Sports is better known for broadcasting basketball, including the NBA. The network is currently broadcasting the NBA playoffs, after live-streaming/broadcasting the NCAA College Basketball March Madness Tournament.

This coming NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A, season will mark the expansion of the post-season playoffs from four teams to 12. The four highest-ranking conference champions will be seeded 1-4 and receive first-round byes. The first round will consist of four games played at home campus venues, with teams seeded 5-8 hosting teams seeded 9-12.

TNT Sports will present two first-round games during the 2024 and 2025 seasons. In addition to the first-round games, TNT Sports will add two quarterfinal games each year, beginning with the 2026 season through the 2028 season.

TNT will be the primary network televising the sublicensed CFP games, among additional TNT Sports distribution platforms, which include B/R Sports (Bleacher Report Sports) on the Max streaming platform.

ESPN will present all other playoff games on its networks, including the annual CFP National Championship Game in Atlanta. ESPN will also continue to manage the sponsorship program for the presentation of the CFP.

“We’re confident in the reach and promotion that this new agreement will provide as we enter the new, expanded playoff era,” Rosalyn Durant, EVP, programming & acquisitions at ESPN, said in a statement.

Bill Hancock, executive director of the college football playoffs, said the availability of college football on TNT shouldn’t be an issue in light of the network’s basketball prowess.

“Sports fans across the country are familiar with their work across a wide variety of sports properties over the past two decades, and we look forward to seeing what new and innovative ideas they bring to the promotion and delivery of these games,” Hancock said.

Key dates for the 2024-25 CFP schedule:

  • CFP First Round, Dec. 20-21
  • CFP Quarterfinals:
    • Vrbo Fiesta Bowl, Dec. 31
    • Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Jan.1, 2025
    • Rose Bowl Game Presented by Prudential, Jan. 1
    • Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1
  • CFP Semifinals:
    • Capital One Orange Bowl, Jan. 9
    • Goodyear Cotton Bowl, Jan. 10
  • CFP National Championship Game, Jan. 20 (Atlanta)

ESPN+, English FA Ink Four-Year Extension of the Emirates FA Cup Soccer Streaming Rights in the U.S.

ESPN+ has inked a deal with the English Football Association (FA) for the U.S. media rights to the oldest and longest-running national cup competition in soccer, the Emirates FA Cup, for the next four seasons, 2024-25 through 2027-28.

The agreement, which underscores U.S. streaming platforms’ growing interest in live sports, extends ESPN+’s position as the exclusive home of 79 Emirates FA Cup matches each season, beginning with the first round and running through to the final at London’s Wembley Stadium.

The agreement includes the FA Community Shield, the annual season-opening match between the latest Emirates FA Cup winners and Premier League title holders.

ESPN+ has been the exclusive home of the Emirates FA Cup in the United States since the 2018-19 season. The renewal agreement was brokered by the competition’s media rights partner in the United States, IMG.

“The Emirates FA Cup is an iconic, historic, and resonant competition, and offering it as part of the robust content offering on ESPN+ continues to make the platform a must-have for soccer fans,” Tim Bunnell, SVP, programming and acquisition, ESPN, said in a statement.

The Emirates FA Cup on ESPN+ continues to bolster the collection of soccer content available on the sports streaming platform. The competition in England joins the DFB Pokal (Germany) and Copa del Rey (Spain) to complete a triad of cup competitions among the sport’s top four leagues available on ESPN+.

In addition, ESPN+ is the U.S. home to matches from LALIGA, Germany’s Bundesliga, the Dutch Eredivisie, and Supercopa de España, among others.

On May 25, ESPN+ will exclusively carry the second-straight Manchester Derby Emirates FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Manchester United, live from Wembley Stadium. English-language coverage will begin at 9 a.m. ET with “ESPN FC” pregame show (kickoff at 10 a.m.). Jon Champion and Jim Beglin (English), Fernando Palomo and Eduardo Biscayart (Spanish) will call the match.

ESPN+, which will part of the pending Venu sports app JV between Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery, will also be integral to the standalone launch of a new ESPN app in 2025.

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Survey: 60% of NFL Fans Disapprove of Netflix’s Exclusive Christmas Day Games

The National Football League’s ground-breaking pact with SVOD juggernaut Netflix to live-stream two games on Christmas Day may not be resonating with all NFL fans.

New data from Casino.org, an online entertainment/gaming website, found that 59% of 3,000 survey respondents said they don’t like the fact that they will have to use Netflix to live-stream week 17 regular games featuring the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers (1 p.m. ET) and the Baltimore Ravens playing the Houston Texans (4:30 p.m. ET).

Among naysayers, nearly 40% cited the cost of a Netflix subscription as a drawback and nearly 36% of respondents said they don’t have a subscription to the service.

An overwhelming 76.5% of respondents said they would not subscribe to Netflix to watch the games, despite 66% admitting they had no worries about the streaming quality of the games.

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Netflix joins Prime Video, ESPN+ and Peacock as subscription streaming video platforms offering exclusive access to 2024-25 NFL regular and post-season games.

While respondents appeared to favor watching NFL games on CBS (24.5%) or a cable pay-TV  operator (23.6%), nearly 57% still said they would still watch the Christmas Day games on Netflix. Indeed, Netflix ranked as the No. 3 most-preferred platform to watch the games.

Disney, Fox, WBD Bow Title, Logo for Pending ‘Venu Sports’ Streaming App

Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery May 16 unveiled the name “Venu Sports” and the logo for the upcoming joint venture sports streaming app.

The platform, which is targeting non-pay-TV sports fans, aims to offer the companies’ combined portfolios of sports networks and certain direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports services — including content from all the major professional sports leagues and college sports.

“As preparations for the platform continue to accelerate, we are singularly focused on delivering a best-in-class product for our target audience, built from the ground up using the latest technologies to engage and entertain discerning sports fans wanting one-stop access to live games,” Pete Distad, CEO of Venu Sports, said in a statement.

Pricing and launch date for the app has not been disclosed.

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Record 20 Regular Season NFL Football Games to Exclusively Live-Stream on Four Platforms for 2024-25 Season

NFL football fans will have to access four separate subscription streaming platforms to watch a record 20 regular season games not available on legacy network television in the upcoming 2024-25 season, beginning Sept. 6.

The NFL announced that NBCUniversal’s Peacock platform will exclusively live-stream the Green Bay Packers playing the Philadelphia Eagles at Corinthians Arena in São Paulo, Brazil, on Sept. 6 (8:15 p.m. ET) — the first-ever regular season NFL game to be played in South America. The game will also mark the first time in more than 50 years that the NFL has scheduled a game on the Friday of their opening weekend since the former St. Louis Cardinals played the Los Angeles Rams on Sept. 18, 1970.

The NFL also announced that ESPN+ will exclusively live stream the week-seven game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Arizona Cardinals at 9 p.m. ET, the platform’s first-ever standalone NFL game.

Prime Video, as part of its 11 year, $11 billion agreement with the NFL, will again stream all 15 “Thursday Night Football” games (excluding Thanksgiving), beginning week two with an AFC East matchup featuring the Miami Dolphins hosting the Buffalo Bills (8:15 p.m. ET). The streamer will also exclusively live-stream the second-ever NFL Black Friday game featuring the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 13 (3 p.m. ET).

As previously reported, Netflix will live-stream its first-ever NFL games on Christmas (Dec. 25), in week 17, with the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers (1 p.m. ET) and the Baltimore Ravens playing the Houston Texans (4:30 p.m. ET). Netflix will also live-stream at least one holiday game in 2025 and 2026 as part of a three-year agreement.

Prime Video will also have exclusive rights to one NFL post-season game. Last year, Peacock acquired the first-ever exclusive rights to an NFL playoff game, the Jan. 13 AFC Wild Card contest between the Kansas City Chief and the Miami Dolphins, which generated a record internet audience of 23 million viewers, according to NBCUniversal.

Finally, online TV subscription service YouTube TV will again exclusively live-stream “NFL Sunday Ticket,” featuring all Sunday games not available in the local broadcast market. Google-owned YouTube is paying the NFL $14 billion over seven years for the rights, which began last season and were previously held by satellite operator DirecTV for three decades.

Notably, the NFL remains the only sports league that still presents all regular-season and postseason games on free, over-the-air television in local markets.

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Fox CEO: Live Sports Not Coming to Tubi

Fox Corp.’s ad-supported free streaming platform Tubi may have just inked a distribution deal with sports-themed online streaming service DAZN for the first North American launch of sports-themed free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) channels featuring women’s professional soccer.

But that doesn’t mean Tubi is pursuing live sports content, according to Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch.

Speaking on the company’s May 8 fiscal call, Murdoch was asked if the company’s pending live-sports joint venture app with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery would eventually make it way to the Tubi platform. The executive dismissed the idea, saying Fox Sports content would remain distributed through existing pay-TV channels and subscription streaming services.

“We don’t see an opportunity at this stage or we haven’t contemplated an opportunity at this stage to bundle the sports app with Tubi,” Murdoch said. “I think it makes potentially more sense to bundle sports with other SVOD services, which you’ll likely see as we go forward.”

That’s noteworthy considering Disney CEO Bob Iger, speaking on his company’s May 7 fiscal call, said that select ESPN programming would be coming to the Disney+ SVOD service later this year.

Fox Sports, which will broadcast the Super Bowl in 2025, saw quarterly advertising revenue drop 36% without the Super Bowl and two fewer NFL games (which went to Prime Video and Peacock streaming).

Murdoch contends that despite not having a branded SVOD service outside Fox Nation, the company is well-equipped to participate in the SVOD market with its live sports rights.

“I don’t think we are strategically disadvantaged with not having a subscription video-on-demand service, because we found in the past, we can partner with others,” he said. “The [sports] leagues to tend to partner with others, we can take the rights where we can broadcast to the most amount of Americans possible, and [the leagues] can allocate rights to SVOD as needed. But they’re never going to be able to live entirely without a broadcast network [such as Fox Sports] and the broadcast distribution.”

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Disney+ Adds 6 Million Q2 Subs, Streaming Biz Posts First-Ever Operating Profit

The Walt Disney Co. May 7, in a switch, reported quarterly earnings ahead of the market open. The media giant said its branded Disney+ subscription streaming video service added 6.3 million net subscribers in its second quarter (ended March 31), to end the period with 117.6 million subs, excluding Disney+ Hotstar in India. The tally was up from 111.3 million subs at the end of 2023.

Disney+ Hotstar lost 2.3 million subscribers to end the quarter with 36 million. Disney+ ended the period with 153.6 million global subs, up from 149.6 million subs in the prior year period.

Hulu added 700,000 net subs to end the period with 45.8 million compared with 45.1 million a year ago. The online TV service, Hulu + Live TV, lost 100,000 subs to end the period with 4.5 million.

More importantly, the direct-to-consumer business segment, which includes Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and Hulu + Live TV, reported its first-ever operating profit of $47 million on revenue of $5.64 billion. That was up from an operating loss of $587 million on revenue of $4.98 billion in the previous-year period. ESPN+ reported a standalone operating loss of $18 million.

Disney attributed the revenue growth to higher subscription revenue from higher rates due to increases in retail pricing across the streaming services, and subscriber growth at Disney+.

“Entertainment streaming was profitable for the quarter, and we remain on track to achieve profitability in our combined streaming businesses in Q4,” CEO Bob Iger said in a statement.

On the fiscal call, Iger said that select ESPN programming would be coming to Disney+ in the form of a branded button on the service at the end of the year, ahead of Disney’s co-launch in 2025 of a branded sports app with Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery.

“We see this as a first step to bring to ESPN-Disney+ viewers as we ready the enhanced stand-alone ESPN streaming service in the fall of 2025,” Iger said, adding that the programming would help condition viewers that “sports is going to be there.”

The CEO reiterated that he has no plans taking ESPN away from legacy pay-TV distribution.

“ESPN is going to make a pivot toward digital, but without abandoning linear,” he said. “If people want to get ESPN … through a cable or a satellite subscription, that’s fine.”

Separately, Disney is forecasting an operating loss in the streaming business in the current third quarter, ending June 30, which is largely due costs surrounding Disney+ Hotstar’s ICC cricket rights in India.

“We also do not expect to see core subscriber growth at Disney+ in the third quarter, but anticipate sub-growth will return in Q4,” CFO Hugh Johnston said on the call. “We continue to expect our combined streaming businesses to be profitable in the fourth quarter and expect further improvements in profitability in fiscal 2025.”

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Fubo Ups Lobbying Efforts Against Pending Sports Streaming App JV

Online sports-themed TV service Fubo has joined eight media distributors in a joint letter sent to U.S. Congressional lawmakers urging them to hold hearings on the future of pay-TV in the era of streaming, including the pending launch of a sports-themed JV app by Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery.
 
Fubo was joined by satellite operators Dish Networks, DirecTV, the conservative streaming platform Newsmax, and public interest groups Sports Fans Coalition, American Economic Liberties Project, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Open Markets Institute.
 
“Recent developments in the pay-TV market, including the programming giants’ new joint venture, a streaming TV service that would control 80% of national live sports broadcasts, raise serious competition concerns that call for Congress’s immediate oversight,” read the letter addressed to Senators Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.).
 
Collectively, the lawmakers head the commerce and judiciary committees in the House and Senate.
 
Fubo and other signees, contend that the JV will control about 55% of all live sports, including regional and national events. Indeed, next year’s Super Bowl will be broadcast on Fox.
 
“We cannot think of any scenario in the history of the U.S. where consumer interests have been served when such an important industry — access to live sports — is effectively controlled by three programming giants, which decided to combine forces instead of competing against each other,” read the letter.
 
Last month, Nadler and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) sent a letter to Disney CEO Bob Iger, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch and David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, citing concerns of possible negative consumer impact and anti-competitive behavior as a result of the JV app.
 
In February, Fubo filed an antitrust lawsuit against Disney, Fox and WBD, alleging the companies have engaged in a years-long campaign to block its streaming business.
 
In response, the three JV partner companies — ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery — issued a statement denying that the pending app is anti-consumer.
 
“The service is a pro-consumer offering to a segment of viewers who currently aren’t served,” the companies said. “It will expand consumer choice by creating an incremental, nonexclusive option for this segment of viewers to watch their favorite sports.”
 
Separately, streaming/pay-TV competitors Comcast (which owns the Peacock service) and Paramount Global (Paramount+) question the impact of the JV, arguing it would have limited access to live sports.
 
“For the true sports fan, this product only has a subset of sports. It’s missing half the NFL, a lot of college, has virtually no soccer or golf. It’s hard to believe that’s ideal, especially at the price points that have been speculated,” former Paramount CEO Bob Bakish said back in February.
 
 

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek Says ESPN Could Become Sports Streaming ‘Clearinghouse’

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek says the media giant’s flagship ESPN brand could become a singular gateway for consumers looking to stream live sports.

Chapek’s comments, the first since he was abruptly fired in 2022 after 16 months as Disney’s boss and replaced by former CEO Bob Iger, are part of CNBC documentary ESPN’s Fight for Dominance, which highlights the 40-year-old sports network’s evolution in the digital era and debuted today (March 21).

Specifically, Chapek envisions ESPN becoming a clearinghouse for sports viewers looking to live-stream sports. As media companies increasingly look to offer marquee events such as NFL regular season, playoff games, “Thursday Night Football” and college basketball’s March Madness on streaming platforms, finding the appropriate service remains confusing.

While NBCUniversal says the Peacock SVOD platform added 2.8 million net subscribers following its record-setting first-ever exclusively streamed NFL Wildcard playoff game in January, the game led to some frustration for diehard TV consumers unfamiliar with Peacock — a situation Amazon faced a few years earlier when the Prime Video platform became the exclusive home for “Thursday Night Football” — long a mainstay on Fox Sports.

Chapek believes ESPN could become an outlet to do what Prime Video, Apple TV, Roku, and others do in offering one-stop streaming access movies.

“If I’m on my Apple TV and I want to watch a movie, I have no idea whether it’s on Prime or Netflix or Disney+ or Hulu or wherever it’s at,” Chapek told CNBC.  “The way I find out is I go to Apple TV, I plug in the movie that I’m looking to watch, and they direct me exactly to where that movie is. And then they connect me seamlessly without me then having to exit and go to another app to go find the show on that app. I think ESPN should be that source for a central clearinghouse.”

ESPN’s digital presence is set to expand significantly this year as part of a joint venture streaming app between Disney, Fox Corp., and Warner Bros. Discovery. Disney is also re-launching the ESPN+ streaming service in 2025.

Chapek believes Disney may sell minority stakes in ESPN as a means of funding its acquisition of Comcast’s 33% stake in Hulu. Disney has already committed $8.6 billion to Comcast as part of 2019 agreement that valued Hulu around $27.5 billion.

“Obviously, the benefit of doing that is that you make available some cash,” Chapek said in the documentary. “And given some of the conversation that’s been happening between Comcast and Disney in terms of needing to buy the final share of Hulu to make it wholly owned by the Disney company, it’s possible that maybe that cash itself is what they’re after.”

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ESPN Inks $7.8 Billion College Football Playoff Rights Extension That Includes Streaming

ESPN March 19 announced a six-year, reportedly $7.8 billion extension with the NCAA that gives the Disney-owned sports network exclusive rights to the college football playoffs for the 2026 through 2032 seasons. ESPN has held exclusive rights to the playoffs since 2015.

ESPN will expand its current package for the final two years (through the 2025-26 season), adding all four of the new First Round games each year to the network’s existing New Year’s Six (now Quarterfinals and Semifinals) and the CFP National Championship rights in the new 12-team playoff that will launch this fall.

Beginning in the 2026-27 season, ESPN will broadcast the CFP National Championship on ABC in addition to offering the game across ESPN platforms, which include the ESPN+ subscription streaming service and all other Disney direct-to-consumer streaming offerings.

ESPN is joining Fox Sports and Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max platform for a exclusive sports joint venture app launching in the fall. ESPN will reboot the existing ESPN+ streaming service in a new standalone platform bowing in 2025.

“ESPN has worked very closely with the College Football Playoff over the past decade to build one of the most prominent events in American sports,” Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN chairman, said in a statement. “This agreement further solidifies ESPN as the home of college football, as well as the destination for the vast majority of major college championships for the next eight years.”

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