Turner unveils streaming sports service in challenge to ESPN


New York (AFP)

Turner Broadcasting on Tuesday announced the launch next month of a standalone streaming sports service, setting up a direct challenge to Walt Disney unit ESPN.

The new service, called Bleacher Report Live, will offer flexible pricing options including access to live games for purchase on an individual or subscription basis, according to Turner, a division of media-entertainment giant Time Warner.

Turner said the new service would be a "hub" for discovery of sports content and provide access to a variety of live games.

Among the events available will be the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, the National Basketball Association and US collegiate basketball.

Turner said the service would be the first to allow fans to purchase and watch live NBA games in progress at a reduced price, starting with the 2018-19 regular season.

"As viewing habits continue to evolve, Turner is well positioned to provide fans with direct access to premium live sports content that is highly coveted by audiences of scale, including a high concentration of millennials," said Turner president David Levy.

Turner offered no details on pricing for the new service, which will be available online to provide access to potential subscribers without a pay TV package.

The move comes as ESPN, the best-known sports media name, prepares to launch its own streaming network.

But ESPN is not expected to offer live games while they are also being broadcast, to avoid cannibalizing its own cable channels.

Disney has announced the ESPN service would be available at launch for $4.99 per month.

The move into streaming aims to win over younger audiences and "cord cutters" who are opting out of traditional cable and satellite packages for on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon, which have scant sports content.

The move by Turner comes as its parent company is working to complete a merger with broadband-telecom giant AT&T, which the US Justice Department is seeking to block because it is anti-competitive.

One part of the case, which is being heard in the US capital, is how important Turner channels are in the media ecosystem and whether AT&T would have too much power with Turner's content.