Warner Bros. Discovery plans to simulcast its growing library of live sports programming on its MAX streaming service, starting with the MLB Playoffs. What other sports can fans watch on MAX, and is it worth the extra cost?
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The bottom line
- MAX, the streaming service owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, will begin simulcasting the TNT and TBS sports lineup on the app.
- Initially, none of the events will be exclusive to MAX.
- If you area already paying for TNT and TBS with a cable or streaming service, there isn’t a great reason to also pay for MAX.
- The exception is Fubo subscribers who want to add TNT and TBS a la carte to fill gaps in Fubo’s channel lineup.
For those who don’t already know, Warner Bros. Discovery owns TBS and TNT, two cable channels that have done a marvelous job of building their live sports lineups in recent years. For example, TNT and TBS have the rights to air at least pieces of the following events:
- NBA basketball, including NBA Playoff games
- NHL Hockey, including the Stanley Cup Finals
- National MLB games, plus the AL Playoffs
- NCAA Basketball, including March Madness
Based on the marquee sporting events that Warner Bros. Discovery has acquired rights for, and with 95,000,000 existing subscribers, it makes sense MAX would make a push to enter the sports market. According to CNBC, and other media reports, MAX will feature live sporting events in a premium price tier, branded under the Bleacher Reports banner. The Bleacher Report brand is thought to have appeal with young fans, and will offer its own interviews and highlight packages.
The problem for sports fans is that the MAX coverage has little more to offer than new branding, that is until they carve out a handful of streaming exclusive games to entice signups.
Exclusive NBA games may be coming to MAX
The NBA is currently negotiating a new media rights deal, and Warner Bros. is likely to remain a partner.
As part of the rights renewal, MAX may gain rights to some exclusive NBA games using the precedent set by Peacock with MLB and college football, and Apple TV+ with its Friday Night Baseball franchise.
What remains to be seen is whether these types of arrangements, where fans are forced to signup for a streaming service to watch a handful of paywalled games, will benefit the bottom lines of the companies that offer them, or anger fans so much that things go in the opposite direction.
MAX sports programming will be fragmented
Even if the service moves beyond simulcasts, the MAX sports offering will be too fragmented to add much value for serious sports fans.
For example, MLB fans can watch much of the AL Playoffs on MAX, but not the NL Playoffs or World Series.
Similarly, college basketball fans can watch a handful of marquee games on MAX, but the app won’t come anywhere close to complete coverage.
MAX might make sense for Fubo users
I keep waiting for Fubo to add Warner Bros. channels, but it hasn’t happened yet.