Warner Bros. Discovery has targeted the beginning of the Major League Baseball playoffs to debut a sports tier for its Max streaming service, according to people familiar with the matter.
The company plans to simulcast games from the MLB, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and National Collegiate Athletics Association, including college basketball’s March Madness, on Max. It also intends to add content from its sports media outlet Bleacher Report, such as highlights and interviews.
Warner Bros. Discovery plans to brand the new tier using the Bleacher Report name, the people said. The company wants to target a younger audience that increasingly skips the traditional pay-TV bundle and would be more aligned with a digital sports brand such as Bleacher Report.
Time Warner acquired Bleacher Report in 2012. It has operated as a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Discovery since WarnerMedia and Discovery merged last year.
Warner Bros. Discovery executives hinted at charging users more for sports during the company’s second-quarter earnings conference call last week, with CEO David Zaslav noting customers would “hear from us on that soon.” The company said last week it ended its second quarter with 95.8 million global direct-to-consumer streaming subscribers.
“Our view is sports is a such a premium offering with a very focused and passionate fan base that generally … it needs to be monetized incrementally,” said JB Perrette, CEO and president of global streaming and games, during the conference call.
Current discussions center around Max simulcasting MLB playoff games on both TBS and Max, said the people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. No MLB games would appear exclusively on Max.
The MLB playoffs begin Oct. 3.
Adding the NBA
The NBA, which begins its regular season Oct. 24, has discussed a similar arrangement with Warner Bros. Discovery, where only games that air on the TNT cable network would be simulcast on Max, said the people familiar with the matter.
Any exclusive Max games would begin next year at the earliest and would likely be a part of the NBA’s rights renewal agreement with Warner Bros. Discovery, the people said.
The NBA has an exclusive window to negotiate new TV rights with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery, its current broadcast partners, which ends April 2024.
Warner Bros. Discovery hasn’t finalized pricing for its planned sports tier yet, said the people. Max currently costs $15.99 per month without ads or $9.99 per month with commercials.
A Warner Bros. Discovery spokesperson declined to comment.
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