Fubo drops Discovery networks amid dispute, eyes gain from NBC’s NBA bid

Fubo’s latest dispute with Warner Bros. Discovery has led to dropping 17 Discovery networks. But NBC’s NBA bid, and declining cable viewership numbers from Nielsen, indicates a potential silver lining.

Fubo Warner Bros. Discovery
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Fubo, the sports-first live TV streaming platform, has dropped 17 Discovery channels, including Animal Planet, HGTV, and Food Network, escalating its ongoing dispute with Warner Bros. Discovery. 

Fubo subscribers lost access to these networks on Wednesday. It’s a continuation of a carriage disagreement that dates back to 2020 when Fubo lost key sports networks like TNT, TBS, and truTV. Those three channels are key for NBA and college basketball broadcasts. 

Warner Bros. Discovery told The Verge yesterday in a statement, “Our priority is to deliver the best content, at the best value, to our fans wherever they want to watch it. We have been and remain ready and willing to work diligently with Fubo to reach a fair market agreement. We proposed an extension of our current agreement, with no changes or price increases, that would allow Fubo to continue carrying these networks, and it is unfortunate that Fubo has decided to alienate their own customers in this way.”

Despite the loss of channels, two big market shifts could benefit Fubo. According to Nielsen’s March 2024 report, cable saw a 10% year-over-year decline, with cable’s share of TV usage shrinking, while streaming services now represent 38.5% of TV viewership.

It’s not cable’s old entertainment networks that are driving viewership these days. 

Per Nielsen, “The cable category was lifted in part by sports, which was up 43% in March, driven largely by college basketball viewership. Games in the women’s NCAA tournament had a more meaningful impact on viewership compared with previous years, with the Round 2 matchup between Iowa and West Virginia ranking as the No. 7 cable telecast in March with 4.9 million viewers on ESPN.” 

Nielsen says that streaming viewership was up 12 percent in March compared to a year ago. 

In other words, TV viewers are migrating to shows and movies on streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. Consequently, the loss of the 17 Discovery channels from Fubo’s lineup might not be as detrimental as it seems, given the declining general interest in cable entertainment networks.

Another potential game-changer for Fubo involves NBCUniversal’s reported preparation of a $2.5 billion annual bid for NBA broadcasting rights. The deal would move these games from Warner Bros. Discovery’s TNT to NBC — a network already included in Fubo’s channel lineup. 

NBCUniversal is reportedly prepared to pay an average of about $2.5 billion a year to air a package of National Basketball Association (NBA) games. The offer significantly surpasses the current deal held by Warner Bros. Discovery’s TNT, which has been paying an average fee of $1.2 billion under its existing contract. 

In February 2024, FuboTV Inc. filed a lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company, FOX Corp., and Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc., alleging anti-competitive behavior tied to a planned joint sports streaming venture by the three companies. 

The yet-to-be named service is set to debut later this year, and carry 14 cable sports networks including ESPN, TNT, TBS and FOX Sports 1. 

FuboTV Inc. said in a statement yesterday that it expressed a desire to offer TNT, TBS, and truTV as part of a more affordable “skinny” sports bundle. 

However, Warner Bros. Discovery denied FuboTV the option to subscribe to their Turner sports content separately from the Discovery content, which FuboTV viewed as part of Warner Bros. Discovery’s refusal to engage in good faith negotiations. 

Sources: The Verge, Nielsen, The Wall Street Journal, Deadline

Jim Kimble is a seasoned industry expert with over two decades of journalism experience. He has been at the forefront of the cord-cutting movement since 2016, testing and writing about TV-related products and services. He founded The Cord Cutting Report in 2016, and serves as the editor.

Major publications, including MarketWatch, Forbes, and South Florida Sun Sentinel, have interviewed Kimble for his years of expertise. He gives advice on the complexities consumers are navigating with streaming options, and over-the-air TV. Kimble has been a staff writer or correspondent for several award-winning, daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe.

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