Venu Sports Q&A: Everything You Wanted to Know About the Recently Announced Sports Streaming Partnership

Robbie K Baxter
4 min readMay 23, 2024

Have you heard about the Venu Sports — AKA “SPULU” a Hulu-like partnership for sports streaming?

Analyst Michael Nathanson called the deal, “the bundle we’ve been waiting for” and The Wall Street Journal described it as a “milestone.”

However, according to a recent article by Bloomberg, “The Justice Department plans to scrutinize the new streaming service proposed by Walt Disney Co., Fox Corp., and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. over concerns it could harm consumers, media rivals and sports leagues.”

What is going on–and what does it mean for us?

“SPULU” is a new streaming service proposed by Walt Disney Co., Fox Corp., and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the top questions on people’s minds and some of my thoughts on what this partnership could mean for various stakeholders:

What do we know about it?

The newly named Venu Sports be made available directly to consumers via a new app. Venu will likely also be bundled with the other subscription platforms (Hulu, Max, Disney+ etc)

It’s a joint venture (JV) between media giants Disney (ESPN), Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery, to deliver a bundled sports subscription that includes much of the content sports fans want,

The group has tapped former Apple Executive Pete Distad to be CEO. Distad spent a decade at Apple, where he was responsible for a bunch of functions, including business, operations, and global distribution of video, sports, and Apple TV+.

This type of partnership often doesn’t last, but for now, it’s a play by three legacy players to stay in the game, as the native streamers (YouTube, Amazon Prime, Netflix, etc) go deep into sports.

Why is it happening?

The primary reason for the JV is to stay relevant as providers of sports content, now that the streamers are going after it. But that may be a losing battle, as the streamers have very deep pockets.

Each of the JV partners might also bundle the sports service with their other content, creating a stickier service. After all, you can’t “binge-watch” last year’s basketball season.

There’s also an interesting accounting play to be made. Let’s say that three players are each ⅓ owners of the JV. The money they put into the venture comes out below the profit line that the three companies report to Wall Street. But they will be paid their carriage fees (based on who watches what) as subscription revenue–above the line.

How much will the streaming service cost?

The general consensus is that streaming will be about $50/month. But, it could launch at a lower price to build direct relationships with consumers and establish habits. And of course, once people are hooked, they could raise the price.

What does it mean for cable?

This is another nail in the coffin for linear TV but it’s not clear how much the cable companies care. After all, their primary source of profit is their broadband service. The content is somewhere between breakeven (supported primarily by sports) and irrelevant. And even if consumers “cut the cord,” they still need broadband to have any enjoyable feed.

It’s much worse for the cable networks left behind, like Viacom, BET, A&E, and MTV. If everyone is buying streaming bundles that don’t include them, and then using cable broadband to access those bundles, these networks lost their connection to consumers.

What does it mean for sports leagues?

For sports leagues, this partnership came as a surprise, which prompted some angry comments.

NFL Chief Business Officer Brian Rolapp said: “We were a little surprised by that…But I don’t think it affects anything we do…They’re positioning it as the ultimate sports bundle, but it’s missing more than half of NFL football” Indeed, while the JV could be great for sports fans who enjoy “all sports” — purists might be better off with a direct subscription to the league they follow most avidly.

A key worry for the leagues is that the JV partners might share information about their bidding on sports rights, artificially lowering the prices the Leagues get from some of the biggest players. The JV partners have said they wouldn’t collude–but the leagues (and the JV’s competitors) are skeptical.

What does it mean for streaming natives?

Big streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple will probably barely notice all of this. They have a lot of money and can spend more than traditional TV companies. So, they’ll likely continue to invest and not be too intimidated

What does it mean for consumers?

For people who like sports and TV, it’s kind of a case of “who moved my cheese”. It’s not clear whether this is better or worse, or just different.

For sports fans who have cut the cord, the bundle might present cost savings, as well as a single interface for all things sports-related.

All of the players–streaming natives, networks, and studios alike, are using sports to force consumers to go directly with them. And if your favorite team is just on the other side of a paywall, you’ll figure out how to access it.

You’ll just have to be willing to foot the bill.

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Robbie K Baxter

Author of THE FOREVER TRANSACTION & THE MEMBERSHIP ECONOMY; Leading expert on membership models and subscription pricing. http://www.robbiekellmanbaxter.com