Greetings from the sports desk located somewhere below decks of the Good Pirate Ship RedState. While Sammy the Shark and Karl the Kraken are still on their post-NHL All-Star Game vacation, the news never stops, even though those two lunkheads seemingly never start working around here.
While in the world of sports news, most of the attention at present focuses on whether Taylor Swift can make it from her upcoming concert in Tokyo on February 10 to Las Vegas on February 11 to catch her current boyfriend Travis Kelce in the Super Bowl — you may have heard they’re dating — there is actual off the field sports news to cover. It’s flown a bit under the radar thus far, but on February 6, ESPN (i.e., Disney), FOX Sports, and Warner Bros. Discovery announced their plans for a joint venture sports streaming channel to launch this fall. The as-yet-unnamed channel would provide a one-stop location for the three networks to broadcast their existing sports programming, with all three equally splitting the presumed profits.
The new channel will provide even greater enticement for streaming sports consumers to cut the cable. Depending on the price, it should be more economical for a fan to subscribe to the new channel alone, thereby getting everything that he or she may currently be depending on their cable provider, be it ESPN or TNT or TBS or FS1, etc.
Also, the new channel, should it come to fruition, would be a handy bargaining tool for the involved networks come contract negotiation time with the major sports leagues and college conferences. Noticeably missing from the proposed consortium are NBC/Peacock, which incurred much wrath during the recently concluded NFL playoffs for putting the Miami Dolphins-Kansas City Chiefs matchup on Peacock only, and CBS/Paramount. Disney, FOX, and WB can now pitch to different leagues, “Hey, goodwill all around if you have all your games here where everyone is going to become used to being the only channel they need. You don’t need those other guys.” The networks would doubtless try for a reduction in rates paid to the leagues in return for the convenience factor. Good luck with that, but stranger things have happened.
A further advantage of a one-stop streaming shop would be down the road when the networks can make an offer to different leagues to let the networks handle the current swampland that is out-of-market regular season streaming. Presently, of the four major professional leagues, only the NHL is readily available without a subscription to a league-run channel, as ESPN+ broadcasts almost all games. The NFL runs its ridiculously overpriced Sunday Ticket service through YouTube, while the NBA and MLB do things in-house. Assuming assorted number crunchers can make the finances palatable to all parties concerned, why not have everything in one convenient location, with the leagues enjoying a corresponding reduction in hassle?
The new channel continues the inelegant dance between sports providers and broadcasters, one in which one hand firmly clenches their partner’s waist while the other equally firmly holds a hidden dagger ready to be whipped around and plunged into the other’s back at the first sign of disrespect. Disney’s streaming service is hemorrhaging red ink. However, the announcement on February 7 that Taylor Swift’s 2023 concert movie “Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version)” will air exclusively on Disney+ starting March 15 may singlehandedly flip the channel into the black. As RedState’s Brad Slager noted here in January 2024, no one is watching anything on network television anymore except the NFL. The networks might as well try to pool their resources, and while sports are clearly the dog wagging the network’s tail, perhaps by joining together they can at least suggest in which direction they fly.
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