Executives at Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) are hoping to launch a live sports tier on its flagship streaming service Max in time for the Major League Baseball (MLB) playoffs, according to a report.
On Monday, CNBC said WBD is working with MLB, the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL) and other professional sports stakeholders to ramp up Max’s live sports offering.
The initiative will also see Max incorporate sports highlights and programming from Bleacher Report, the digital sports brand acquired by WBD predecessor Time Warner in 2012, CNBC said, citing unnamed sources.
Max introduced live sports in January, when the service was still known as HBO Max. The first sports event streamed on HBO Max was a match-up involving the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, as part of a lucrative deal that will see other U.S. women’s and men’s soccer offered through the service. Around the same time, a deal was announced to bring live NHL games to HBO Max at a later date.
As the number of cable and satellite subscribers continues to dwindle, executives at WBD have been exploring ways to bring more live sports to Max. Overseas, WBD already offers a robust portfolio of live sports through its Discovery Plus streaming service, which shares some telecast rights with pan-European sports network Eurosport. Collectively, WBD has nearly 96 million global subscribers to Max, Discovery Plus and other services.
If all goes well, WBD will bring some of that same streaming sports magic to the United States, where executives want to offer simulcasts of MLB playoff games around early October. The games will continue to be offered on TBS, the comedy-centric cable network that was part of the broader merger between AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Discovery Communications last year.
A similar arrangement is being hammered out between the NBA and WBD, which would see games aired on TNT simulcast on Max, possibly as soon as mid-October, CNBC reported. Those discussions are happening while the NBA negotiates a new telecast rights package with various media partners; currently, WBD and the Walt Disney Company share national NBA rights through April 2024.
The live sports events would be distributed through a new “tier” of service, CNBC said, though it wasn’t immediately clear from the report if WBD plans to charge more for access to live games. Currently, Max costs $10 a month for an ad-supported tier, and between $16 and $20 a month for a commercial-free version that offers some additional features.