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Fubo loses WBD channels after suing over sports joint venture

The Fubo app icon on Apple TV.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

It’s a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl. Boy sues girl over what it says are anti-competitive practices. Boy surprised when girl no longer wants to have anything to do with him. Boy writes pithy press release. Welcome, friends, to the current state of the relationship between Fubo and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Fubo — the smallest of the major live streaming services in the U.S. — today announced that it has failed to renew a content agreement with Warner Bros. Discovery, which has led to the loss of a number of channels. That includes Discovery itself, along with HGTV, Food Network, and TLC. It also extends to TNT, TBS, and truTV.

As is usually the case in what in the industry are called carriage agreements — wherein a service has the rights to carry channels — it’s a whole lot of he said/she said. Fubo says it “offered Warner Brothers Discovery market rates for its content and, despite Fubo’s efforts to negotiate in good faith, Warner Brothers Discovery did not provide any counteroffer, and insisted on continuing to offer us above-market rates for its content.”

What we don’t know is what a fair-market rate is, or what Fubo’s offer was. That sort of thing is usually kept private between the parties. Fubo also said that “Fubo views Warner Brothers Discovery’s refusal to engage in good faith negotiations as another example of its abuse of massive market power that ultimately limits consumer choice.”

That “abuse of massive market power” refers to a lawsuit that Fubo has filed against WBD, Fox, and Disney over a new sports streaming service (also called a joint venture — the term used when competing companies work together on something) that’s set to launch this fall in time for the college football season. That service, which is still unnamed, combines the substantial sports rights of  those three companies under a single umbrella. Executives have repeatedly said the service is aimed at consumers who don’t currently have any sort of streaming or cable service but still want to be able to watch sports. Fubo says it’s going to kill its business, which already has higher monthly user fees than its competition, and nowhere near the marketing budget.

“It is clear to us that Warner Bros. Discovery’s actions hurt consumer wallets and limit their choice,” Fubo wrote in the press release. “As a result, Warner Bros. Discovery networks have left Fubo as of April 30, 2024 at 5pm ET.”

In a statement emailed to Digital Trends, Warner Bros. Discovery said: “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.”

Fubo will announce its first-quarter 2024 earnings and presumably updated subscriber numbers on May 3. It finished 2023 with 1.618 million paid subscribers, about 25% fewer than Sling TV, and a full 3 million fewer than Hulu With Live TV. The market leader remains YouTube TV, which last announced having more than 8 million paid subscribers.

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