By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, do you think HBO Max will ever have live sports? That would make it a killer service with Discovery shows also mixed in. HBO has done boxing so what do you think? — Tony, Las Vegas.
Tony, HBO Max, the subscription streaming service which starts at $9.99 a month for its ads-included plan, has already dipped its toes in the live sports category. HBO Max this year is streaming 20 U.S. women’s and men’s national team soccer matches. The broadcasts are part of an eight-year deal between Turner Broadcasting (HBO’s operating parent) and the U.S. Soccer Federation.
But rumors that the soccer streams are just the tip of the iceberg (to continue our ill-founded water metaphors) were confirmed last week when Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav was asked about sports on HBO Max during the company’s first quarter earnings call. (Warner Bros. Discovery is the corporate parent of Turner.)
“We are actively working on options to expand our lineup to include news and sports acknowledging that this live programming has the power to keep consumers coming back for more and staying longer. We look forward to sharing further details with you in the months ahead,” Zaslav said.
HBO Max, which will become just Max on May 23, is clearly targeting Netflix which has been reluctant to go live, particularly with sports and news. (Netflix this year finally did two live events although the second one, a Love Is Blind reunion, suffered massive technical outages.) With Discovery programming now part of HBO Max, the service has a more diverse lineup that will appeal to a Netflix-like audience, not just ‘Prestige TV’ fans who love HBO. And live sports (and news) could give it a competitive edge over Netflix.
Warner Bros. Discovery owns the Turner channels (TNT, TBS, truTV) which has the rights to NHL, MLB and NBA games so it’s possible that HBO Max could stream those leagues as well. HBO has a long history with boxing so that’s another candidate. And who knows, Zaslav might even be thinking of putting some March Madness games in the mix if the rights can be worked out.
HBO Max’s entry into live sports continues a trend in the subscription VOD industry with Paramount+, Hulu, Amazon all offering live games with their lineup of movies and TV shows. But Warner Bros. Discovery’s ample resources and existing sports partnerships could make HBO Max (sorry, Max) a formidable live sports player.
Tony, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann