EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. Discovery plans to launch the paid version of its B/R Sports Add-On several months from now, a shift from the company’s initial guidance.
When the sports tier carrying the Bleacher Report branding was announced last September and then went live in October, it carried no extra charge for Max subscribers. The company said at the time that it expected the add-on’s $10 premium pricing would take effect in February. That timeline would have allowed March Madness, the annual spree of NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament coverage WBD carries via a joint venture with Paramount Global, to help drive subscriber interest.
Now, the expectation is for the add-on to go live as a premium option well after the hoops frenzy subsides, at a time to be determined.
“The B/R Sports Add-On will continue to be made available to Max subscribers on us for a few more months as we finalize some tech integrations that will ensure a more seamless customer experience with our platform partners,” Max said in a statement provided to Deadline. “We’ve seen great engagement with live sports on Max so far and look forward to continuing to delight fans with upcoming premium sports events like March Madness, the NBA, and NHL.”
Later the springtime, WBD linear networks will feature two more marquee events, the NHL and NBA playoffs, which will also be on the B/R tier of Max. October will brings the Major League Baseball playoffs to TBS and the sports tier.
The technical process of enabling customers to opt into the sports tier is not a simple one to manage. As direct-to-consumer streaming providers, all media companies now find themselves in a far different position than when they were focused on supplying linear programming to pay-TV operators. They must co-ordinate a suite of operations they haven’t historically kept in-house, including billing, fulfillment, tech support and product integration.
J-B Perrette, CEO and President, Global Streaming and Games at WBD, spoke to Deadline last September about the “challenging business” of stand-alone outlets focused on sports streaming, explaining the company’s strategic rationale for the add-on approach. In Europe, Discovery (which completed its merger with WarnerMedia in 2022) put programming from its Eurosport subsidiary onto Discovery+ and wound down its stand-alone Eurorport streaming service. That consolidated setup “grew to be much more successful, both in terms of revenue and churn-wise and engagement-wise,” Perrette said. “So that’s the model that we followed” with Max.