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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Fubo Ups Q1 Subscribers, Narrows Fiscal Loss

Online sports streaming TV service Fubo May 3 reported an 18% increase in paid subscribers to 1.51 million in the first quarter (ended March 31). The platform ended the previous-year period with 1.28 million subscribers.

Quarterly revenue increased 24% to $394 million from $318 million in the prior-year period. The net loss from continuing operations narrowed 32.5% to $56.3 million, from a net loss of $83.3 million in the previous-year period.

The company’s French-based Molotov streaming TV service added almost 20,000 subscribers to end the fiscal period with 397,000 subs. Revenue increased 7% to $8.4 million, from $7.85 million in the prior-year period.

The company continues to believe in the merits of its antitrust lawsuit filed against Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery regarding the planned launch of a sports streaming joint venture app. Fubo said it remains encouraged by the public support of companies such as DirecTV and Dish, as well as a federal court’s recent decision to set a hearing date for its preliminary injunction motion. Fubo alleges Disney, Fox and WBD have conspired to force the streamer to carry non-sports content in order to license their sports rights, a move the streamer says stifles competition. In addition, the company contends it pays upwards of 50% more to license the defendants’ content than other non-streaming competitors.

“We continue to believe in the merits of our antitrust lawsuit against the sports streaming JV partners and thank those who have publicly supported us,” CEO David Gandler said in a statement. “We are encouraged by reports of the Department of Justice’s investigation and look forward to our preliminary injunction hearing in August.”

Gandler believes that if all distributors were offered fair license terms, the consumer could have multiple sports streaming options to choose from, access to just the channels they want, and at a price that’s right for them.

“We continue to operate efficiently and effectively as we execute on our mission to delight consumers with an aggregated sports entertainment offering delivered through a personalized and intuitive streaming experience,” he said.

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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.
 
 

Fubo Gets Aug. 7 Preliminary Injunction Court Date in Antitrust Case Against Disney, Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery Streaming App

Sports-themed online television platform Fubo has been given an Aug. 7 federal court date in New York for its antitrust lawsuit against the pending sports streaming app launch from joint venture partners Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery.

The case, which revolves around the bundling of linear sports channels to pay-TV and online distribution partners, gained traction recently when a New York District court denied the joint venture’s attempt to have Fubo’s suit dismissed.

Separately, two Democrat House of Representative lawmakers, Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Joaquin Castro (D-TX), sent a joint letter to the CEOs of Disney, Fox and WBD asking 18 questions related to the sports app with an April 30 deadline.

Fubo, which has seen its stock price plummet following news of the pending sports app, is set to release its first quarter financial results on May 3.

‘America’s Most Wanted’ to Be Inducted Into NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame

With less than a month left before the start of its annual convention in Las Vegas, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) has announced that the pioneering true crime series “America’s Most Wanted” will be inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame for television.

The 20th Century Fox series — currently available for streaming on Prime Video, Fandango at Home and other digital platforms, and for sale on DVD — will be honored during the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame Ceremony, held on the Main Stage of the 2024 NAB Show on April 15.

The show runs April 14-17 in Las Vegas, with education sessions starting a day early, on April 13.

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“America’s Most Wanted” debuted in February 1988 and ran for 24 seasons on the Fox television network and another two on Lifetime. The series consisted of reenactments of crimes committed by dangerous fugitives, interspersed with on-camera interviews, with narrator Adam Walsh, at the end of each episode, soliciting the public’s help in apprehending the suspects. Walsh had been cast into the spotlight after his six-year-old son, Adam, was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. The 1983 TV movie Adam was based on that crime, and Adams later became a victim’s advocate, campaigning for legislation to protect missing children, as well as the creation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

The series was revived in March 2021, with Elizabeth Vargas as host. Season 2 premiered in January, with Walsh returning as host, along with his surviving son, Callahan. The series, streaming on Hulu, is produced by Fox Alternative Entertainment.

John Walsh and his son will be at NAB to accept the award.

“For over three decades, ‘America’s Most Wanted’ has not only captivated audiences but has also played an instrumental role in aiding law enforcement, fostering safer communities and supporting victims and their families,” said NAB president and CEO Curtis LeGeyt. “We are grateful for the efforts of the Walsh family, whose dedication and tireless commitment have shaped this iconic program. We are pleased to honor them as we induct ‘America’s Most Wanted’ into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame at NAB Show.”

The NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame recognizes radio and television personalities or programs that have earned a place in broadcasting history. Past television show inductees include “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” “FOX NFL Sunday,” “Meet the Press,” “The Price is Right,” “Saturday Night Live” and “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.”

Media Executive Peter Distad Named CEO of New Disney, Fox, WBD Sports Streaming Joint Venture

Media, sports and technology executive Peter Distad has been named CEO of the pending sports streaming app joint venture formed by ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery. Distad, who most recently served as an executive at Apple for a decade following six years at Hulu, will assume oversight of all aspects of the JV, including overall strategy, distribution, marketing and sales.

Peter Distad

“Pete is an accomplished innovator and leader who has extensive experience with launching and growing new video services. We are confident he and his team will build an extremely compelling, fan-focused product for our target market,” ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery said in a joint statement.

Distad worked at Apple from 2013 to 2023, where he was responsible for the business, operations and global distribution for video, sports and Apple TV+. While there, he launched the new Apple TV in 2015, and later led teams that launched and scaled the Apple TV app, Apple TV+ and MLS Season Pass. He originally joined the company to lead product marketing for the Apple TV hardware product.

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At Hulu (2007-2013), Distad served as SVP of marketing and distribution on the executive team. He was part of the original Hulu launch team, overseeing customer acquisition and retention, distribution and marketing.

Upon establishment of the JV, Distad will report to its board of directors, which will include representatives selected by each of the three companies. He will be based at the to-be-established offices of the joint venture in Los Angeles, along with the independent management team he will assemble.

The new platform, announced in February, will bring together the companies’ portfolios of sports networks and certain of their direct-to-consumer (DTC) sports services — including content from all the major professional sports leagues and college sports. The formation of the pay service is subject to the negotiation of definitive agreements amongst the parties.

The sports streaming offering, scheduled to launch in the fall 2024, will be made available directly to consumers via a new app. Subscribers would also have the ability to bundle the product, including with Disney+, Hulu and/or Max.

The platform is designed to aggregate content to offer fans an extensive, dynamic lineup of sports content, aiming to provide a new and differentiated experience to serve sports fans, particularly those outside of the traditional pay-TV bundle, according to the JV.

Fubo Sues Disney, Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery Over Pending Sports Streaming Joint Venture

Online live sports TV streaming platform Fubo Feb. 20 filed an antitrust lawsuit against The Walt Disney Co., Fox Corp., Warner Bros. Discovery and their affiliates, alleging that the media companies have engaged in a years-long campaign to block Fubo’s live-sports streaming business, among other anti-competitive practices.

The complaint further alleges that the pending launch of Disney/Fox/WBD’s sports-streaming joint venture steals from Fubo’s business playbook. Indeed, Fubo’s stock price dropped 23% day after the JV was announced.

Launched in 2015, Fubo was the first to offer a sports-centric package of live TV streaming channels.

“For decades, defendants have leveraged their iron grip on sports content rights to extract billions of dollars in supra-competitive profits, by engaging in practices causing consumers to pay more for highly popular sports content, and resulting in significant damages to both Fubo and its customers,” read the complaint.

Specifically, the complaint claims Disney, Fox and WBD bundled unwanted programming as part of licensing their sports channels to Fubo, in addition to charging exorbitant (30% to 50% higher) content licensing rates than charged other distributors.

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Fubo alleges the defendants imposed so-called “non-market penetration requirements” (the percentage of total subscribers to which a content package must be sold to or cannot exceed), which increased costs to end-users, and forced Fubo to incur billions of dollars in damages.

“Each of these companies has consistently engaged in anticompetitive practices that aim to monopolize the market, stifle any form of competition, create higher pricing for subscribers and cheat consumers from deserved choice,” David Gandler, co-founder/CEO of Fubo, said in a statement.

“Simply put, this sports cartel blocked our playbook for many years and now they are effectively stealing it for themselves,” he added.

The stakes are high as live sporting events dominated television viewership in 2023, with 97 of the top 100 broadcasts dedicated to live sports, according to Nielsen.

“Fubo seeks equal treatment in terms of pricing and all relevant conditions from these media giants to ensure we can compete fairly for the benefit of consumers,” Gandler said.

Disney, Fox and WBD reps were not immediately available for comment.

CFO: Fox Keeping Eyes Open for Live Sports Streaming Option

Outside of the Fox Nation subscription streaming VOD service, and its ad-supported Fox Weather and Tubi platforms, Fox Corp. remains a legacy pay-TV distributor. But should live sports shift direct-to-consumer, Fox, which distributes the NFL, MLB, Major League Soccer, NASCAR, NCAA football, basketball, FIFA World Cup, and WWE SmackDown across linear and online pay-TV networks, is ready to participate, according to CFO Steve Tomsic.

Speaking Dec. 4 at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference in New York, Tomsic was asked about Disney’s pending ESPN-branded live sports offering and how Fox would respond.

Tomsic acknowledged ESPN is a strong brand, but added that with much of live sports gobbled up by territorial TV rights, getting enough live sports on a singular streaming platform remains a challenge.

“We did a calculus of all the sort of distribution modes that could possibly emerge,” Tomsic said. “With sports in this country, they’re so fragmented. If you’re a sports fan and you want to watch the NFL in a given week, you go to Amazon for Thursdays, you go to us on Sunday, you’ve got CBS on Sunday, you’ve got NBC Sunday night and you’ve got ESPN on Monday. No one sports service is going to satisfy.”

Steven Tomsic

That said, should the slowly rising tide of live sports streaming, including select NFL games on Peacock, Paramount+ and Prime Video — including the latter’s recent deal to live-stream NASCAR races along with Max — reach the broadcast shoreline, Tomsic said Fox would be all in revisiting its strategy.

Specifically, the executive said Fox does not define itself by the delivery mechanism, or the way content is scheduled, adding that live sports and news are different than entertainment.

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“For entertainment, there’s no doubt that streaming has delivered a better user experience,” Tomsic said. “It’s on-demand, you watch it when you want to watch it. Sports and news are the opposite. Live sports expects the viewer to be on demand. People don’t watch replays of the news or live sports.”

“We don’t consider ourselves a linear TV programmer,” he added. “We have the rights capability, both on the sports side and on the news side, to be able to deliver our services DTC. We have a pretty extensive technology build. We have all the building blocks for us [direct-to-consumer], if and when that becomes appropriate. But for now, we still think the right strategy is where we’re at.”

75th Primetime Emmy Awards Rescheduled for Jan. 15, 2024

The Television Academy and Fox Aug. 10 jointly announced that the telecast of the 75th Emmy Awards will air on Jan. 15, 2024, from 8 to 11 p.m. ET (5 to 8 p.m. PT) on Fox from the Peacock Theater at LA Live.

The annual awards telecast honoring the top talent and creatives in television entertainment had originally been scheduled for September. The delay, due to the ongoing writers and actors strikes, is the first awards postponement since the 9/11 terrorist attack.

The rescheduled show hopes to honor the performers, writers, directors and craftspeople who are currently on strike seeking higher compensation in the streaming ecosystem, in addition to safeguards at the rising use of artificial intelligence (AI) in content creation, among other concerns.

The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will take place at the Peacock Theater at LA Live over two consecutive nights on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7, 2024. An edited presentation will be aired on Jan. 13, 2024, at 8 pm ET/PT on FXX.

Fox Reportedly Set to Delay 2023 Primetime Emmys Due to Hollywood Strikes

The 75th Primetime Emmy Awards reportedly have been postponed from their original Sept. 18 broadcast on Fox due to the ongoing Hollywood labor strikes. The delay would be the first for the Emmys since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

While no official decision has been announced, media reports suggest the Television Academy, which organizes the annual industry event, and Fox are eyeing dates in November or next January depending the status of ongoing nationwide strikes by members of SAG-AFTRA and the Writers Guild of America.

The writers have been on strike since May 2, while the actors joined the labor unrest earlier this month. Both parties are looking for increased residual compensation, in addition to safeguards against the rising use of artificial intelligence (AI), and writer guarantees in content production.

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Any delay would also impact the Creative Arts Emmy Awards also slated to take place in September.