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Paramount serves ‘true sports fans,’ CEO says

Sports on Paramount Plus.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

Paramount may find itself in a bit of a weird spot when it comes to the upcoming super sports streaming service set to launch this fall. That is, that it’s not involved in the joint venture that plans to combine the sports whose TV rights are currently held by Disney (as in ESPN), Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery.

But if there’s any real consternation, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish wasn’t showing it during his company’s fourth-quarter earnings call this week. And, in fact, his reaction to a question during the call was much the same as ours.

“We’ll start with the fact that there’s still a lot we don’t know about this service,” Bakish said. “Things like price, packaging, consumer appetite.”

There’s also the fact that it doesn’t yet have a name.

Bakish took a little bit of a shot at the upcoming service, implying that it won’t be attractive to a “true sports fan” because “the product only has a subset of sports. It’s missing half the NFL, a lot of college, has virtually no soccer or golf. So, look, that’s hard to believe that’s ideal, especially at the price points that have been speculated.”

And Bakish probably isn’t wrong there. It won’t have everything you’d get with a traditional linear subscription, be it cable or streaming or satellite. But it’s also not intended to. As Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch first said, the new service is aimed at someone who doesn’t yet subscribe to anything. The so-called “cord-never.” It’s not meant to poach from anyone.

Paramount+, on the other hand, will get you live sports, plus its growing on-demand library.

“We serve true sports fans through our MVPD [Multichannel Video Programming Distributor] and virtual MVPD partnerships,” Bakish said, using the industry acronyms for cable and streaming. And he’s right. Paramount does exactly that. And so do Disney and Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery, with the sporting events whose rights are held by those three companies, too.

It wasn’t a horrible answer from Bakish. What else was he supposed to say? “It’s great those guys are looking to make some money without us.” That wasn’t going to happen. And new and existing services don’t even touch exclusives like MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, or NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTube and YouTube TV.

Sports continue to shake up the live TV game. But it’s also not a zero-sum game. Don’t necessarily look for subscribers to cancel existing subscriptions for this new service.

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