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The upcoming sports streaming service is a textbook case of a ‘trollout’

The search box on the ESPN app.
Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

There’s a phenomenon in the phone world that’s as smart as it is frustrating. That’s the one where a company announces an exciting new feature, only to eventually note that it’s going to roll it out in stages. You can’t get it now. You might not get it for a while. And if anything goes wrong, it’ll push things back further. (And you’ll likely not get any further communication.)

That, friends, is the “trollout.” It’s mean to roll things out in a responsible way, in case things go wrong.

This week’s trollout entry is the upcoming live sports streaming service that combines the assets of Disney (which means ESPN), Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery. The service — often referred to as a “joint venture,” which is business speak for when competitors decide to work together on something — doesn’t have a name. We don’t know when it’s going to go live, short of probably before the college football season. And we don’t know a price, other than maybe somewhere around $50 a month. Maybe.

Those are the big outstanding questions. These are maybe not the most important things — that would be what sports will actually be available on the service. And we pretty much know what that will be (see below).

A relatively vague list of sports available on an upcoming sports streaming serbvice.
A list of sports available on the upcoming streaming service. Screenshot

But those remaining black holes of information didn’t stop the chief executives of Disney, Fox, and WBD from separately talking about this upcoming joint venture at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference despite not actually giving any additional information.

We do at least know the target audience of the new service: someone who doesn’t currently subscribe to anything. That’s a point of confusion for media outlets who are trying to put this whole thing in context. Some have crowed various versions of “It’s missing too many sports!” And indeed it will be. The point isn’t to cover everything. The point is to cover enough sports that someone who doesn’t have any other subscriptions will find value in it. The point is to mine the untapped vein that is these “cord nevers.”

“We want our brands and our content available to as big an audience and as many viewers as possible, wherever they are,” Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch said on March 4, basically repeating what he’s previously said. “And for us, that means the audience that are cord cutters or cord nevers — which is a huge, market in the United States. If we can put our sports in front of those, those fans … we think that’s an important place to be.”

Disney CEO Bob Iger was singing the same tune a day later.

“You’ve got a lot of people — young people — who have not subscribed to the multichannel fat bundle,” Iger said. “And you have a lot of people that used to be subscribers that lapsed. We want those. We want them in. They want to watch sports. We’re trying to provide a less expensive, more focused opportunity for them.”

We still don’t know how much less expensive it will be, but the real question is going to be “less expensive than what?” The answer is “less expensive than getting those same sports as part of a traditional cable or streaming subscription.”

Plenty of details remain. A big one for me is whether it’ll include things you could only get on ESPN+, and it kind of sounds like that might be included. But there also are the little things, like a name, and a price. We’ll get them. Eventually.

In other news …

  • If you didn’t watch the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s shootout win over Canada, it was something. The rain. (Shouldn’t have played in those conditions.) And the end result. (Alyssa Naeher is a beast.) But it’s inexcusable for the CBS feed on Paramount+ to not be streaming at 60 frames per second. The Spanish broadcast on ESPN+ was great, though.
  • I’ll be watching the final against Brazil on Sunday evening. Presumably on ESPN+.
  • Warner Bros. Discovery will show a weeknight sports block — TNT Sports on truTV — starting March 11. It’ll have live events, TNT Sports Update at 6 p.m. Eastern, sports-betting show The Line at 6:30 p.m., and more.
  • Spotify is getting more expensive — in France. That’s due to the French government’s new Center for National Music tax. Spotify says the 15 million-euro tax might not actually go to the artists as intended.
  • From a couple weeks ago: Google TV now has quick-pairing for the Pixel Buds Pro, and it works really well. It’s as simple as pairing AirPods with Apple TV.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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