Disney-Fox-WBD joint venture: DOA with the DOJ?

Justice Department to analyze deal as the NFL pushes back

The planned sports streaming venture proposed by Disney’s ESPN, Fox Corporation, and Warner Bros. Discovery could be finished before it even gets off the ground.

Two significant developments took place this week as the Department of Justice (DOJ) is now looking at the proposed joint venture for anti-trust concerns. The agency is looking to see if it would harm consumers, competitors, and sports leagues as NBC parent Comcast and CBS parent Paramount Global were left out.

One of those sports leagues is the NFL, who felt blindsided by the move and did not know about the planned joint venture beforehand. The league has deals with the parent companies of all four broadcast networks, including Fox and ESPN/ABC. The league feels it could have a profound effect on its existing deals, with the newest one starting this past season. According to NBC Sports Pro Football Talk, the NFL is “scouring its contracts” to see if the three companies have the right to air their events on their proposed service.

Even if the NFL doesn’t have any legal standing to prevent games from airing on the unnamed service, the NFL could unleash its revenge against two of the league’s partners Fox and ESPN in other ways, such as giving them a schedule of less-than-appealing games. This was the case for years when ESPN inherited the Monday Night Football package from corporate sibling ABC years after the sports network aired the controversial football drama Playmakers, a program the NFL derided.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on The Pat McAfee Show Tuesday he was also blindsided by the news, while MLB officials have yet to comment.

Also expressing concern with virtual multiple programming video distributor (vMVPD) Fubo and ACA Connects, who outright opposed the deal.

“It’s anticompetitive for the biggest media players to join forces while locking out traditional linear video providers, including our Members from offering the same packages at the same prices,” ACA President CEO Grant Spellmeyer said in a statement. “Fans deserve a level playing field in the sports media landscape without the threat of these giants controlling the marketplace and jacking up prices.” If it begins, The price point is expected to start around $50.

Ironically, two station groups with tons of network affiliates – Atlanta-based Gray Television and Cincinnati-based Scripps gave their blessing to the venture provided they fairly compensate their stations for carrying the signals of their ABC and Fox affiliates, who are reportedly part of this venture, but no far no other station group has commented.

Meanwhile, a report surfaced stating the name of the service could be Hulu Sports, named after the main streaming portal now wholly owned by Disney, who recently bought out Comcast’s share (the original iteration of News Corp. was also an early partner.) It’s not known how this would impact their current vMVPD service, Hulu + Live TV.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *