Fubo and other small streamers ask Congress to probe Fox-WBD-Disney joint sports venture

The news: Fubo and other streamers have asked Congress to hold a hearing on the joint sports streaming venture planned by Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Disney.

  • In a letter to regulators, Fubo, DirecTV, Dish Network, and Newsmax claimed the proposed streaming service would control 80% of US sports broadcasts, a large market share that “calls for Congress’s (sic) immediate oversight.”
  • In response, Fox and its two partners claimed their streaming service is consumer friendly and will give viewers “nonexclusive options” for sports, per The Hollywood Reporter.

Raising the stakes: Fubo has put up fierce resistance to the proposed streaming venture, filing an antitrust lawsuit in February in an attempt to prevent it, while later taking out billboards in Washington, DC, to swing public opinion.

  • Now, Fubo has formed a coalition of smaller streamers and video providers to attempt to raise further antitrust concerns, showing there is momentum against the streaming venture, which would provide consumers with access to Fox, WBD, and Disney’s linear TV sports offerings.
  • The timing of Fubo’s letter is noticeable for coinciding with the beginning of the Upfront season, during which it—and its competitors—will seek to strike advertising commitments against sports and entertainment content.
  • The letter was disclosed just before Fubo posted Q1 results that showed a 24% gain in revenues to $394 million and a narrower loss even as paid subscribers fell from the fourth quarter.

Push and pull: The scale of the proposed sports streaming venture has already attracted regulatory attention from House representatives, but Fubo has an uphill battle to fight if it wants to block the yet unnamed service outright.

  • Streaming consumers complain that the landscape is highly fractured—especially when it comes to sports, where media rights are scattered across a number of varying services.
  • Consumers want easy streaming options. According to Ipsos, 61% of US adults say there are “too many” streaming services, and US households can spend more than $1,000 per year on them. A singular hub for sports content could address both concerns in one swoop.
  • The question is whether the venture would push competitors out of the market, which Fubo and others argue it will. But Fubo will have to prove that, despite consumers’ desire for a singular streaming offering, the venture could result in worse outcomes for consumers.

First Published on May 3, 2024