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Live Sports Shake-Up $DIS $FUBO $WBD $GOOGL

February 7, 2024

In a move that signals a major shift in the sports broadcasting landscape, ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery have joined forces to launch a new streaming sports service in the U.S. this fall.

This decision impacts major players in many investor portfolios, from DIS and WBD to smaller names like FUBO.

The joint venture aims to consolidate live media rights across a wide array of major leagues, including the NFL, NBA, WNBA, MLB, NHL, UFC, Formula 1, NASCAR, the PGA Tour, the FIFA World Cup, NWSL, and MLS, among others.

Slated to be accessible to Max, Hulu, and ESPN+ subscribers (in a bundle, of course), this service is not only poised to significantly enhance viewer engagement but also attract substantial advertiser interest, given the decline in ad revenue Disney experienced last quarter.

The importance of live sports for consumers cannot be overstated. Live sports remain a vital component of the media landscape, offering unparalleled engagement and reach opportunities for brands. The loyalty and passion of sports fans create a unique environment for advertisers to connect with an engaged and broad audience.

As digital and streaming platforms continue to evolve, the value of live sports advertising grows, offering exposure to millions of viewers and tapping into the emotional investment fans have in their favorite teams and players​​.

Moreover, the transition toward streaming and digital platforms reflects broader consumer behavior shifts, with a significant portion of global sports fans opting to stream live events through digital platforms.

This change is driven by the proliferation of over-the-top (OTT) options and an increased demand for sports content that extends beyond live matches to include match announcements, highlights, recap videos, and more.

The benefits of live streaming sports further highlight the potential impact of this joint venture on DIS specifically, especially ahead of earnings.

Live streaming offers increased revenue opportunities, the ability to reach audiences of any size, engagement with the fan base through interactive features, and enhanced social media exposure. These advantages are critical in a landscape where fans demand access to their favorite sports content across multiple devices and platforms​​.

This strategic collaboration among ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery, by bringing together a diverse array of live sports rights under one umbrella, stands to significantly bolster Disney's position in the competitive live streaming domain, where its Hulu option was falling behind…

Not only does it promise to reinvigorate Hulu's standing against rivals like YouTube TV (GOOGL) and FUBO, but it also aligns with Disney's broader corporate restructuring towards distinct divisions focusing on entertainment, sports, and experiences.

With the latter continuing to drive growth—as evidenced by last quarter’s 13% year-over-year increase in Disney experience revenue—this move could mark a pivotal moment in Disney's ongoing efforts to adapt to the changing media landscape and consumer preferences​​.

(It’s clear on our end, Disney’s park interest continues to grow.)

As this venture unfolds, its implications for the sports broadcasting industry, consumer engagement, and the broader digital media ecosystem will be closely watched. The success of this initiative could not only redefine sports consumption but also set a new standard for the integration of live sports into digital and streaming platforms.

Members: we’re keeping an especially close eye on one of our favorite names over the last year, FUBO. While web visits show tremendous growth, this new development could hamper its prospects.

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