Planned Disney-Fox-WBD Bundle “Only Has A Subset Of Sports”, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish Says: “It’s Hard To Believe That’s Ideal”

Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish derided a planned streaming venture backed by Disney, Fox Corp. and Warner Bros. Discovery for having “only a subset of sports.”

In his first public comments since the announcement of the service, which does not include any Paramount or NBCUniversal properties, Bakish noted several gaps it will have.

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“There’s still a lot we don’t know about this service, things like price, packaging, consumer appetite,” he said on Paramount’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “To the consumer point, for the true sports fan, this product only has a subset of sports. It’s missing half the NFL, a lot of college, has virtually no soccer or golf, etc. It’s hard to believe that’s ideal, especially at the price points that have been speculated.”

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Pricing was not mentioned by the companies when they rolled out the news, but Wall Street analysts and industry observers say the bundle of 14 linear networks will need to cost from $40 to $50 a month, or possibly more. Because of existing distribution commitments, the venture will not be able to undercut existing MVPDs and streaming packages. That dilemma leaves the bundle with uncertain prospects as it targets cord-nevers with a package costing quite a bit more than a typical subscription offering.

The venture partners have given limited comments about how Paramount and NBCU wound up on the outside looking in. Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch has said there were no discussions with any additional potential partners at this point.

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As to Paramount’s general outlook on sports, Bakish said, “We see clear value to an integrated sports payment strategy, true both for CBS and Paramount+.” Among viewers who come to Paramount+ for sports, “90% of their engagement is with non-sports,” the exec added. “That’s a clear opportunity that we continue to exploit and we like. … Marquee sports are locked up until the next decade. We very much like where we are in sports.”

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Bakish’s skeptical take on the rival sports bundle was the second of the day from the executive suite. During Nexstar Media Group’s quarterly earnings call earlier Wednesday, President and COO Mike Biard said he has “more questions than answers” about the joint venture. One of those questions, he said, concerns whether it will “actually launch” given the many hurdles (technological, regulatory, legal) that will need to be cleared.

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