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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Ted Sarandos: Netflix Looking for ‘Excitement’ in Live-Sports Streaming

With Netflix recently adding a live streaming boxing rematch between undisputed super lightweight world champion Katie Taylor (23-1, 6 KOs) against unified featherweight champion Amanda “The Real Deal” Serrano (46-2-1, 30 KOs) on the undercard of the Mike Tyson vs. Jake Paul fight July 20 from AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the streamer is all-in on signature live events, according to co-CEO Ted Sarandos.

Ted Sarandos

Speaking on the company’s April 18 fiscal webcast, Sarandos added no updates on longstanding hard “no” about whether the streamer might engage in procuring streaming rights to professional sports leagues when their TV contracts come up for renewal over the next 10 years. Instead, the executive said he believes the drama of singular sports events is what motivates viewers, such as the original split decision for Taylor over Serrano on April 30, 2022, at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The fight was the first women’s boxing match to headline MSG and more than lived up to its billing.

“There’s something incredibly magic about folks gathering around the TV together in the living room to watch something all at the same time,” Sarandos said. “We believe that these kind of ‘eventized’ cultural moments … are just that kind of television that we want to be part of winning over those moments with our members as well.”

Sarandos said the streamer has signed up 52 weeks of live “WWE Monday Night RAW” beginning in 2025, part of a reported $5 billion license deal between the streamer and WWE.

“We think it’s going to be a real value-add to watch those things in real time,” he said. “And we’re going to continue to try a lot of new things, but the core of it is, do our members love it? And judging from the early excitement around the Jake Paul, Mike Tyson fight, there’s going to be a lot of people waking up in the middle of the night all over the world to watch this fight in real time.”

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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.”

Peacock Using NBC Sports’ ‘Sunday Night Football’ Broadcast Team for Bills-Chargers NFL Game Exclusively Streaming Dec. 23

Peacock is set to boost its live-sports streaming in a major way.

NBCUniversal Nov. 16 announced that its NBC Sports’ “Sunday Night Football” announce team of Olympic Games host Mike Tirico, Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark will call the exclusive “Peacock Holiday” NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers on Saturday, Dec. 23 at 8 p.m. EsT (5 p.m. PsT).

The game, which marks the first time the Peacock streaming service will be the exclusive home of an NFL game, will not be available on pay-TV. It is available on free, over-the-air television in local markets. It is also streaming on mobile devices with an NFL+ subscription.

NBC Sports “Sunday Night Football” has been  the No. 1 primetime TV show for 12 consecutive years.

Commercial establishments looking to show the Peacock-exclusive NFL regular season game and NFL Wild Card Game on Jan. 13 can acquire access through Peacock Sports Pass, which includes access to select events from Peacock’s live sports content library, including the Premier League, Big Ten football and basketball, among other sports.

The Peacock exclusive immediately follows the Holiday Special Saturday afternoon game featuring the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers at 4:30 p.m. EST (1:30 p.m. PST) on NBC and Peacock.

NBC Sports’ “B1G Saturday Night” team — Noah Eagle (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst) and Kathryn Tappen (sideline reporter) — will call Bengals-Steelers. Three-time Super Bowl referee Terry McAulay will serve as rules analyst for both games.

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With the two Saturday NFL Wild Card games and a Sunday primetime NFL Wild Card game (on NBC and Peacock), NBCUniversal will be the first media company to present three NFL playoff games in a single weekend.

Peacock’s live-sports programming featuring NBC Sports co-broadcasts also includes Big Ten football and basketball, Notre Dame Football, Olympics and Paralympics, Premier League, Nascar, and NTT IndyCar Series. Peacock also offers daily sports programming on the NBC Sports channel.

Nielsen: Live Sports Boosts September Broadcast, Pay-TV at Streaming Expense

The return of college football and the NFL helped revive broadcast and pay-TV in September, while undermining household TV streaming for the second consecutive month, according to new data from Nielsen.

Broadcast viewership increased for the second consecutive month, with viewing volume up by nearly 13% overall, and by more than 30% in both the 18-49 and 25-54 demographics. This sizable increase in volume led to an additional 2.5 share points for the category, to finish at 23% of total TV usage. The broadcast sports genre experienced massive growth (+360%) amid the start of NFL and college football seasons. By comparison, the sports genre saw a 222% increase in viewership over the same period in 2022.

Cable TV also felt a positive impact from sports viewership, exhibiting a 25.5% increase in the sports genre in September. ESPN carried the top 11 cable telecasts this month — 10 of the 11 were football-related, and the U.S. Open tennis tournament took ninth place. Overall, cable viewing in September fell slightly (-1.1%) from August, and the category lost 0.4 share points to represent 29.8% of TV usage.

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Streaming viewership declined (-1.7%), and the category lost more than half a share point to represent 37.5% of total TV usage in September. There were a few bright spots, however, including Prime Video, which saw the largest increase in viewership among streaming platforms (+7.5%) as a result of its exclusive rights to NFL “Thursday Night Football,” as well as the second season of “The Wheel of Time.” This month’s Thursday Night Football broadcast dates represented Prime Video’s highest viewing days in September, and the streamer reached a personal best 3.6% share of television.

In addition to Prime Video, Tubi and The Roku Channel were the other streaming platforms to exhibit growth in viewership vs. August (up 4.3% and 1.4%, respectively), but shares for each remained the same. Despite hosting September’s top three streaming titles, which accounted for a combined 18 billion viewing minutes (“Suits,” shared with Peacock, “Virgin River” and “One Piece”), Netflix viewership declined around 5%, losing 0.4 share points. Paramount+ and Peacock also declined in the 5% range, while Disney+ usage was much flatter by comparison (-1.6%), due in part to the 11.3 billion viewing minutes accumulated by “Bluey,” “Ahsoka,” Elemental and The Little Mermaid (2023).

Linear (live TV) streaming via MVPD (multichannel video programming distributors) and online pay-TV apps, including Sling TV, YouTube TV, Fubo, and Hulu + Live TV, represented 5.7% of total television usage in September, the highest total to date this year. Linear streaming is included in the appropriate broadcast or cable category, and is not included in the streaming category.

DEG Members to Participate in Live Sports Streaming Panel at CEDIA

DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group members will participate in a panel on live sports streaming at CEDIA Expo 2023, taking place Sept. 7-9 in Denver.

The DEG’s Live Sports Council members Rob Stecklow, SVP of marketing, sports and news at Paramount+, and Brian Gilmore, VP of Peacock and digital programming at NBC Sports, will join Walt Zerbe of CEDIA, Tom Doherty of HTSA, and the DEG’s Marc Finer for the panel — “Understanding the Live Sports Streaming Platforms and their Potential Opportunities for the CI Channel.” The conversation will cover the latest in sports streaming, DEG Live Sports Council initiatives, and potential opportunities in the sports space for custom integrators.

The panel takes place Sept. 8 from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the Colorado Convention Center’s Mile High Ballroom 4C.

To confirm attendance, contact Jean Levicki, jean@degonline.org.

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The 8K Association will also present the panel “8K: Understanding the Content Perspective” Sept. 8 from 10:50 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. on the CEDIA Smart Stage. The session features industry experts Joel Korpi, head of product, Amazon Prime Video; Dominic Glynn, senior scientist, Pixar; and Greg Ciaccio, senior director, post-production original content and image capture at IMAX. It will be moderated by Mike Fidler, executive director of the 8K Association. Attendees will get an overview of the current 8K content ecosystem and its potential to elevate the creative experience in the future.

Max Planning to Live Stream Sports Through WBD’s Bleacher Report Platform

Warner Bros. Discovery’s Max subscription streaming platform is reportedly planning to begin live streaming sports in the fall with the Major League Baseball playoffs. The games, which would be simulcast on WBD’s TNT and TBS networks, could include the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and the NCAA’s March Madness basketball tournament, according to CNBC, which cited sources familiar with the situation.

WBD CEO David Zaslav, speaking on last week’s fiscal call, hinted Max would soon begin delving into live sports programming and that “we’ll have more to say about that soon.” Zaslav said any live-sports streaming forays in the United States would include the Bleacher Report platform, which tracks scores, highlights and news stories targeting the younger demographic. The executive said the company has had “good success” in Europe and Latin America with layering sports and news into streaming with various business models.

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“We have significant digital rights in the U.S. that we’re not currently deploying, but plan to in the future and that has a real chance to create meaningful strategic value,” Zaslav said.

WBD recently merged BT Sport in the United Kingdom with its Eurosport U.K. brand and renamed it TNT Sports, which is available on Discovery+. The company has the European rights to the Olympic Games and Tour de France, among other events.

“News and sports are important, they’re differentiators, they’re compelling and they make these platforms come alive,” Zaslav said.

NPAW: Live-Streaming Champions League Soccer Final, French Open Tennis Broke Records

There’s a reason Netflix is considering live-streaming sports. New data from streaming video analytics firm NPAW found an increase in plays, playtime and unique streaming users for the recently concluded Champions League soccer competition and French Open tennis tournament compared to both the previous three months of streaming consumption and the 2022 events.

When compared to the previous 90 days — i.e. regular seasonal consumption —  NPAW reported an 11% increase in plays and unique users during the length of the tournament, while total playtime streaming usage increased 8%.

NPAW image

The surge in streaming consumption was much stronger when compared to last year’s tournament, which points at the growing popularity of streaming platforms among tennis fans. The French Open from the Rolland Garros tennis arena in Paris live-streamed in the U.S. on Peacock.

“Roland Garros 2023 garnered 68% more plays than the previous edition, attracting 57% more unique users and registering a 37% higher playtime,” Miquel Morales, content manager at NPAW, wrote in a blog post. “However, the average playtime and average playtime per user decreased by 27% and 32% respectively, indicating that users might be watching in shorter bursts or being less engaged per streaming session.”

Morales wrote that the men’s semifinals attracted the most playtime, while TVs were the device of choice for most viewers with almost a 47% share. PCs came in second with 19% of the share, with smartphones following with 16%.

The annual UEFA Champions League to determine Europe’s best soccer teams saw Manchester City win their first Champions League title, defeating Inter Milan 1-0 on June 10, and completing a historic triple crown by winning England’s Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League in the same season.

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NPAW found that live-streaming of the 2023 final saw significant spikes in streaming consumption compared to the previous 90 days of competition and the 2022 final. This year saw 39% more plays and 45% more unique users. Even though the total playtime increased by 14% from the 2022 final, the average playtime per user and per streaming service both decreased compared to 2022, suggesting viewers tuned in for shorter sessions.

Connected TVs were the devices that captured the most playtime (34%), followed by smartphones (26%), set-top-boxes (18%), and PCs (15%), according to Morales.

Report: Netflix Eyeing Live-Streaming Las Vegas Celebrity Golf Event in Support of Sports Reality Series

Despite a longtime aversion to live sports (due to license costs), Netflix reportedly is considering live-streaming a celebrity golf event in Las Vegas this fall that would include participants from its popular “Full Swing” and “Drive to Survive” series. The streamer also has the tennis-themed “Break Point” docuseries.

The Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the situation, said live-streaming the golf event would enable Netflix to dip its toes in sports without paying the exorbitant upfront license fees associated with a major tournament.

On January’s fiscal webcast, co-CEO Ted Sarandos said the streamer wasn’t anti-sports, but rather pro-profit.

“We’ve not been able to figure out how to deliver profits in renting big league sports in our subscription model,” Sarandos said. “Not to say that, that won’t change. We’ll be open to it, but that’s where it’s at today.”

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Finances aside, Netflix has mixed results thus far in live streaming. A highly publicized live stand-up comedy performance with Chris Rock, for which the streamer reportedly paid the comic $20 million upfront, was followed by a disastrous “Love Is Blind” season four reunion show on April 16 that resulted in a 75-minute delay and an apology on social media.

“To everyone who stayed up late, woke up early, gave up their Sunday afternoon, we are incredibly sorry that the ‘Love Is Blind Live Reunion’ did not turn out as we had planned. We’re filming it now and we’ll have it on Netflix as soon as humanly possible. Again, thank you and sorry,” wrote the streamer.

Co-CEO Greg Peters later attributed the malfunction to technical glitches in the live-feed.

FuboTV Rebranding as Fubo, Hires Ryan Reynolds to Co-Produce New Ad Campaign

Sports-themed streaming platform FuboTV March 21 announced it is rebranding as Fubo, backed by a new brand ad campaign co-produced by actor/investor Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort production company.

The nationwide marketing campaign stars NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett and former NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez touting Fubo, which added 251,000 subscribers in the most recent fiscal period ended Dec. 31, 2022.

Launching amid the World Baseball Classic and the start of the Major League Baseball season, Fubo’s new branding campaign is framed by the line, “If Sports Fans Built a Streaming Service.” The multiplatform campaign includes a series of 15-second and 30-second spots and digital display ads.

“Fubo has grown in size and scope, with multiple brands under our global umbrella, since we launched our core cable TV replacement product in 2015,” co-founder/CEO David Gandler said in a statement.

Reynolds, who co-owns the professional Wrexham AFC soccer club in Wales, and recently sold his co-owned Mint Mobile telecommunications service to T-Mobile for $1.35 billion, contends Fubo has successfully bridged the live sports divide between cable and streaming.

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“While cable fights cord-cutters and streaming services fight the cash content war, Fubo is building an experience and suite of services that can win,” Reynolds said in a statement.

The co-production with Maximum Effort includes the forthcoming launch of the Maximum Effort Channel, a linear network on Fubo, as part of an exclusive first-look deal for unscripted TV series as well as a blind scripted deal.

“In a time with seemingly endless options, our new brand campaign shows what sets Fubo apart,” Pamela Duckworth, head of Fubo Networks and originals at Fubo, said in a statement. “We worked hand-in-hand with Maximum Effort to bring this concept to life and I’m extremely proud of the content we’re creating together.”