Do Smaller Sports TV Networks Need Non-Sports Partners For Bigger Returns?

Premium sports is a content king in the U.S. TV industry -- think NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball. But do they and more modest sports media efforts need broader-reaching content partners to make big scores?

Seems like Discovery’s Eurosport, the Pan-European sport TV network, thinks so.

The business had a tough time in recent years getting its streamer Eurosport Player going as a standalone streaming business. But better consumer-business activity came its way when Discovery combined Eurosport with Discovery’s regular nonfiction, entertainment content under its “Discovery+With Sports” marketing theme.

Why did Eurosport struggle? Volume was the big issue -- in terms of pricey content volume to fill a 24/7 service.

Traditional linear broadcasting TV networks, like those in the U.S., typically offer selective top sports TV programs -- championships, title games, important rivalries. But not everything is soup-to-nuts when it comes to an individual sport.



JB Perrette, president-CEO of Discovery Streaming and International, says traditional TV networks might do just eight to 10 major events per year, filled in with other top content.

When trying to do a 24/7 sports network, Discovery found it got very expensive -- especially for a new streaming direct-to-consumer platform.

Now, think more broadly when looking at say ESPN+.

The new streaming platform is doing fairly well, some 17.1 million U.S. subscribers. But we know Walt Disney’s “Disney Bundle” -- its package of three streaming services, Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+, priced at $13.99 -- contributes a lot to that success, in terms of consumer interest and higher additive subscriber numbers for each platform.

Traditionally, Disney has packaged ESPN with its dozen or so TV networks/local TV market stations in distribution deals with cable, satellite and telco companies ---helping get broader carriage for the whole group.

That was then. This is now.

Think of what is happening with regional sports networks -- which are having a tough time getting carriage with traditional and new virtual pay TV providers -- all due to high distribution costs. New virtual pay TV providers, like YouTube TV, Sling TV and Hulu+Live TV, are already under the gun due to thin profit margins. Those companies have no room for questionable profitable TV networks/platforms.

So RSNs have been shelved by many new virtual pay TV providers. In turn, RSNs are doing their own streaming thing.

Perhaps they need to observe Eurosport and ESPN+ lessons more closely. Might they need non-sports streaming partners to help boost future business -- either in the streaming or the non-streaming world?

With ever-higher sports TV/streaming rights fees coming at media owners nonstop, perhaps many need to rethink how those costs will be paid for long term.

You need teammates.

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