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Streaming services announce a joint bundle for live sports

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

Watching live sports can be a little complicated these days. Take the NFL - you can watch the Super Bowl today on your local CBS station or stream it on Paramount+ or even Nickelodeon. One playoff game streamed exclusively on Peacock. Thursday Night Football - that's on Prime Video from Amazon. You get the point. Well, earlier this week, three media giants - Fox, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery - announced a new deal to combine their sports rights into one big, giant streaming service.

To understand the current landscape of live sports and streaming, we called John Ourand. He covers sports and media for Puck News and joins us now from - where else? - Las Vegas, where he's there to see the Super Bowl. Welcome to the show.

JOHN OURAND: Thank you for having me.

ELLIOTT: So let's begin broadly here. What does the live sports streaming landscape look like today? What are the options out there? And what are we talking in terms of how much it costs you?

OURAND: Well, the live sports streaming landscape is utter chaos right now. So if you are a soccer fan, you need to get a subscription to Paramount+. You need to get a subscription to Peacock. You need to get a subscription to ESPN+ - on and on and on. And all of a sudden, those subscription prices end up running very, very high. What is happening, though, is that the entertainment programming - that's already migrated to streaming. You see Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+. I don't know anybody that watches a drama TV show on broadcast television right now. Sports is live, and that's been slower to migrate over to streaming. And sports and live events, really, news - they're the last bastion of pay TV, the cable bundle. And they're the reason why the cable bundle still exists right now.

ELLIOTT: So let's now talk about this new deal with Fox, Disney and Warner. How significant is it? And will it change the landscape now?

OURAND: It has a potential to. So it depends on who you ask. If you talk to Fox, Disney and Warner Bros., they say that they want to attract the people that have never subscribed to a pay-TV bundle or people that have already cut the cord to the pay-TV bundle who happen to be sports fans. And so this is a way to get them to watch sports and better compete with the Netflix and Apple TV+es of the world. If you talk to some distributors - you know, cable companies or satellite companies - who depend on this pay-TV bundle, they see this as a potential cable killer. They think that it will make more people cut the cord and unsubscribe to their cable or satellite subscription.

ELLIOTT: The great unbundling, I read someone wrote about that.

OURAND: Well, the great unbundling - and then this is a part of the great rebundling. And I think what - if you talk to Comcast or you talk to DirecTV, what - they would really like the flexibility to make that available to their own subscribers. But Fox, Disney and Turner - they would never allow that to happen.

ELLIOTT: I want to talk about one other deal. Last month, Amazon announced that it was investing in Bally Sports, which owns several struggling regional channels that have TV rights for a number of teams in the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NHL. Those games are now going to be available on Prime Video. What's the takeaway from that arrangement?

OURAND: That is the wave of the future right now. Those are deals with Diamond Sports, which is the parent company of all these Bally Sports regional sports networks. Diamond Sports - it's in bankruptcy. It's not certain that they're going to be on Prime Video. There's a path for that to happen. But first, Diamond has to come out of bankruptcy, which people expect to happen at some point.

What viewers and what consumers can look forward to, though, is for the next two, three, four years, you're going to be able to watch your local games on a traditional TV channel, just like always, or you're going to be able to stream them via direct to consumer, which is what Amazon Prime wants to start doing. It's what - I happen to live in Washington, D.C. Its Monumental Sports Network makes its Capitals and Wizards games available to direct to consumer, as well. For consumers, there's going to be more opportunities to tune in to watch sports.

ELLIOTT: Honestly, it makes my head spin - all the options, you know? And I've kind of been one of those afraid to cut the cord because I'm addicted to Southeastern Conference college sports, and I have to have all of the cable thingies to see it. How are consumers going to sort of keep up with everything that's available?

OURAND: All of the leagues recognize that that's a problem. That creates confusion. And more than confusion, it creates anger, and the leagues and the media companies are hearing that anger. And I don't know what the solution is yet, but I know that they recognize that anger. And it's not good business to make your consumers confused and angry, so a solution is in the offing. Exactly what that is is the million-dollar question.

ELLIOTT: Well, we'll see. That's John Ourand, sports correspondent for Puck News. Thanks for being with us.

OURAND: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.