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A look at the game-changing platform that will transform sports streaming


There's a giant new live sports streaming service coming from the companies behind ESPN, Fox Sports, TBS and TNT. They're teaming up to combine their coverage of pro football, basketball, baseball, college sports and a lot of other events. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans is here with more. Hi, Eric.


SHAPIRO: Does this streaming service even have a name yet? What more can you tell us about it?

DEGGANS: No, it doesn't have a name. And more importantly, it doesn't have a price attached yet. So we've got these three companies - Disney, Fox and Warner Brothers Discovery - which announced that they are forming a joint venture to create a streaming service that would bring together sports programming from outlets like ESPN, ESPN+, ABC, Fox Sports, TBS, much more. Each of these three companies would own one-third of the new entity, and they would license their content to this new streaming service.

Now, the service is going to have its own brand, its own name, an independent management team, and they expect the sports that they're going to feature will cover the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, pro hockey, college sports, golf and much more. They say that subscribers are going to be able to buy the service in a bundle with other services that the companies control, like Hulu, Disney+ and Max, and is planned to launch sometime this fall.

SHAPIRO: This sounds like such a big announcement and at a time when a lot of streamers are scaling back their ambitions. Why do you think this is happening now?

DEGGANS: My hunch is that we've reached a crucial moment in streaming and sports. I mean, live sports is one of the few areas of TV programming that streaming services have not been able to overshadow or dominate. And you've got these three companies - Disney, Fox and Warner Brothers Discovery - that have significant operations in cable and broadcast TV. So they're coming together. They're creating this platform that's going to allow them to control how live sports migrates over to streaming. And it's going to help them compete with rivals like Amazon and Netflix, who have the financial resources of Silicon Valley. It's comparable to the time a while ago when the TV networks teamed up to create Hulu. Now Disney mostly owns it now. But when it was created, it was a partnership between a lot of companies, including NBC and Disney, to stream network TV outside of YouTube.

SHAPIRO: What's this going to mean for consumers? I mean, for a die-hard sports fan like me, what impact will it have?

DEGGANS: Well, it's tough to know that because we don't know how much it's going to cost. Yes, it's yet another streaming service to buy. But a comparable streaming service like YouTube TV or Fubo costs anywhere from about $70 a month to $100 monthly. So if they undercut that price with something that's like $50 a month, that would be pretty attractive to sports fans. And if you can offer them a place where they can access a lot of their most important sporting events in one place, I think people are going to appreciate that.

Now, this partnership doesn't include Comcast, which has NBC Sports, or Paramount Global, which has CBS Sports. So there's still some big events, like perhaps the Olympics, which won't necessarily be fully featured on this service.

SHAPIRO: And how do you think this is all going to affect the TV industry generally? Is it going to bring big changes to sports and streaming?

DEGGANS: Yeah, without a doubt. If you're the NFL or any of these sports leagues, you are smiling ear to ear right now because you know the value of your media agreements just went through the roof. Amazon and Netflix and these other companies are going to have to make some tough decisions about stepping up on how much they want to spend to compete. And the new platform has got to work better than some of these sports streaming platforms that are confusing and a challenge to use that consumers are complaining about.

SHAPIRO: NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Thanks.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDERSON .PAAK SONG, "COME DOWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.