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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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WBD’s Next Big Move Could Be More Live Sports on Max

  • CEO David Zaslav says streaming sports is "a real opportunity" for Warner Bros. Discovery.
  • Now that the transition is basically done, it appears WBD will leverage sports to boost Max’s subscriber base and revenue.

Max could soon be streaming the NBA, MLB, and NHL, although it appears likely subscribers will have to pay more to view the live games. 

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said on an investor call on Thursday that, for more than a year, the company has studied how to bring live sports to U.S. customers of its streaming service. One option is to add a sports tier to Max. 

“I’ve talked about news and sports as artillery, and a real opportunity for us,” Zaslav said. “News and sports are important. They’re differentiators, they’re compelling, and they make these platforms come alive.”

Zaslav said there’s nothing stopping WBD from streaming games now. Beyond the NBA, MLB, and NHL broadcast agreements, WBD also has rights to March Madness. Max offered its first live sporting event in January as part of a new eight-year deal with U.S. Soccer.

“One of the elements of those deals is that we own the digital rights to our sports,” he said. 

JB Perrette, WBD’s global chief of streaming, said the company’s approach in some countries has been to charge more for sports content. 

“Generally, our view is sports is such a premium offering with a very focused and passionate fan base that, generally, the model will require some need to find incremental value,” Perrette said. 

Max currently costs $9.99 with ads, $15.99 with no ads, and $19.99 with no ads and 4K monthly. 

Zaslav talked previously about the need to add sports to Max, even before it was rebranded from HBO Max earlier this year. Zaslav’s focus since the WBD merger went final in April 2022 was to integrate Warner Brothers’ content — including TNT and TBS — with Discovery’s portfolio. 

Now that the transition is basically done, it appears WBD will leverage sports to boost Max’s subscriber base and revenue — and it could come at a good time. 

Despite May’s rebrand which added Discovery content, Max lost 1.8 million subscribers from April through June, according to WBD’s latest earnings report released on Thursday.

“We’re gonna use our sports domestically and globally to create more shareholder value — and help the leagues who all are very interested in reaching more people [and] more demographics,” Zaslav said. 

And the ability to stream games direct to consumers could prove pivotal as WBD enters into negotiations to retain NBA. TNT has broadcast NBA games since 1989. 

The NBA’s two current broadcast partners — WBD and Disney — will enter an exclusive negotiating period in the coming months. The current deal expires after the 2024-25 season and sources said Comcast, Apple, and Amazon could be among the potential suitors if either NBA package hits the market. 

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