Max and Warner Bros. Discovery to offer NBA, MLB postseason and other live sports in October

Max and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports announced a Bleacher Report Sports add-on tier that will allow subscribers to watch live sports. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The option allows viewers to see live coverage of MLB, NHL, NBA, the NCAA Tournament and U.S. Soccer events in addition to studio shows like “Inside the NBA.” Max and Warner Bros. Discovery Sports said more than 300 live events — including the MLB and NHL postseasons — will be available.
  • NBA fans will be able to watch opening night and regular season action, the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament, NBA All-Star events and part of the postseason.
  • The add-on will launch Oct. 5 and be included until Feb. 29 before users are charged $9.99 per month.

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

This was always inevitable

We knew this was likely coming at some point and in some fashion. The great sports migration from linear to streaming has been slow, as some of the premier properties have only come there in dribs and drabs, but this is the biggest move yet. Warner Bros. Discovery (through TNT, TBS, TruTV) and ESPN are the largest broadcasters of sports in the U.S. and to this point they have kept their best stuff on linear TV, understandably trying to maintain the revenue they make in carriage fees even as cord cutting has buffeted the cable industry. But, still, this felt inevitable.

For the NBA this will be an interesting trial run ahead of their next media rights deal, which will kick in with the 2025-26 season. There was always going to be a streaming component to that deal, though where and how is undetermined. Now they can get some viewership numbers and see how many fans migrate to a streaming app to watch their product. The NBA’s current TV deal was signed way back in 2014 when streaming wasn’t this big a consideration, and it hasn’t even been able to take its streaming rights to market, so it has been reliant on its current rights holders to make the decision of when and where. — Vorkunov

Will they get the needed subscribers?

As always with streaming, the price point is significant. How many people, whether they are current Max subscribers or not, will sign up for this new sports tier — especially a younger audience that has never signed up for a traditional pay-TV bundle? Those subs will be the number to watch.

WBD’s sports content is Tier I based on the properties they own and that is significant — the NBA, March Madness, MLB, NHL, U.S. Soccer and “Inside The NBA” are very attractive. But consumers keep getting stretched by having to purchase a new bundle, this time via streaming. At what point will it become too much?

One notable thing from this announcement is that games will not be exclusive to linear TV or streaming but will air on both at the same time. That focus on reach will be attractive to sports leagues as we head deep into the 2020s. — Deitsch

What they are saying

“We want to be everywhere sports fans are and our unparalleled offering of leading sports, combined with the power of the Bleacher Report brand and content, including the unique way B/R engages with young sports fans, all delivered through the new Max platform will enable us to broaden our audience and delight new fans,” Luis Silberwasser, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

“We are uniquely positioned to offer viewers the best selection of premium sports and exciting events and fan-focused additional programming, all within a fantastic multi-sport product that will meet the evolving consumption needs of our viewers — both casual and hardcore sports fans.”

(Photo: Chuck Cook / USA Today)

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