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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Want to Stream Live Sports? Better Know Your Bundle Options First

  • Comcast’s new StreamSaver bundle adds to a fast-growing number of combined offerings.
  • Each of the new tie-ups leaves out a meaningful amount of sports content.
Miguel Legoas / USA TODAY NETWORK

Another day, another new streaming bundle. 

The pace of repackaging of services isn’t actually quite that fast, but it’s also not that far off, leaving a growing amount of confusion for fans and subscribers.

Comcast said it will now package its Peacock with rival services Netflix and Apple TV+ in a single bundle, called StreamSaver, to be offered to its customers starting later this month, and at a discounted price compared to the combined cost of purchasing the three separately. The offering arrives just days after Warner Bros. Discovery unveiled plans to package its Max along with Disney+ and Hulu in a single bundle set to debut this summer. 

Those packages, meanwhile, follow the previously announced sports-oriented bundle, widely called “Spulu,” (or “Hulu for sports”), that involves WBD, ESPN, and Fox; the separate Disney-specific combination that includes Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu, and debuted in 2019; and a discounted combination of Max and Netflix for Verizon subscribers. 

“We’ve been bundling video successfully and creatively for 60 years,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said at the MoffettNathanson Media, Internet & Communications Conference. “And so this is the latest iteration of that, and I think will be a pretty compelling package.”

Pitfalls Abound

Roberts’s remarks are not that surprising. But in each of these instances, the bundles fail to get a fan much closer to getting a truly comprehensive amount of sports content—something that’s already a challenging task as many leagues continue to splinter their rights into smaller chunks in a pursuit to reach consumers in additional places. Among the shortcomings of the various bundles: 

  • StreamSaver: It offers the Premier League, Olympics, an extensive amount of college sports, MLS, Sunday Night Football, and perhaps even more NFL in the future. But it leaves out anything held by ESPN, CBS Sports, Amazon, Fox Sports, WBD, and many smaller outlets.
  • Max-Disney+-Hulu: This package is among the weaker ones on the market as it relates to sports, and could see even more winnowing in that area if TNT Sports fails to retain its NBA rights.
  • “Spulu”: It omits about half of the NFL and significant amounts of college sports and soccer, golf, tennis, and horse racing, among other sports, leading to widespread criticism of its perceived utility.
  • Disney: Not surprisingly, this bundle is by far the most integrated and mature offering, and will be expanded later this year with the development of an ESPN tile within Disney+. But it all remains the work of just one company. 

And regional sports networks—still a meaningful part of overall sports consumption whether it be on cable or over-the-air platforms, and despite the challenges in that sector—are essentially nowhere to be found in any of the new streaming bundles. 

The bulked-up offering around Peacock, however, could represent a boost for that service. Its current subscriber total of 34 million—far less than most of its primary rivals—still makes it arguably something of an underperformer given the breadth of sports it offers by itself. 

With the start of football season—a key driver of sports consumption—a little more than three months away, many of these services will need to finalize pricing and availability details in the coming weeks. 

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