Critics sound antitrust warning bells as Disney plans to control sports streaming with joint venture

A planned joint venture from Disney set antitrust warning bells ringing as competitors and critics alike cried foul over taking the “Wide World of Sports” too far.

More than a month after the Justice Department acknowledged its intent to scrutinize a streaming service proposal joining the Walt Disney Company, Fox Corp. and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.’s sports programming, monopoly complaints did not deter the companies from naming the venture’s CEO.

Having worked as the senior vice president of marketing and distribution for Hulu, a similarly challenged content conglomerate, before leading product marketing at Apple TV+, Peter Distad was named as CEO of the as yet unnamed service that Disney CFO Hugh Johnson asserted would control “over 80 percent of the national games that are currently broadcast.”

“Pete is an accomplished innovator and leader who has extensive experience with launching and growing new video services,” a statement from the backers of the venture read. “We are confident he and his team will build an extremely compelling, fan-focused product for our target market.”

Bringing together programming from TNT, Fox Sports, ESPN and ABC, Distad said in his own remarks, “This is an incredible opportunity to build and grow a differentiated product that will sever passionate sports fans in the U.S. outside of the traditional pay TV bundle. I’m excited to be able to pull together the industry-leading sports content portfolios from these three companies to deliver a new best-in-class service.”

Of course, in addition to getting a once over from the DOJ, FuboTV Inc. railed against the announced venture and by late February had filed an antitrust suit against the three companies and their affiliates “alleging that the vertically-integrated media companies have engaged in a years-long campaign to block Fubo’s innovative sports-first streaming business resulting in significant harm to both Fubo and consumers.”

“The complaint alleges that the forthcoming launch of a sports-streaming joint venture steals Fubo’s playbook and is the latest example of this campaign,” a release from Fubo read.

“Simply put,” Fubo co-founder and CEO David Gandler said, “this sports cartel blocked our playbook for many years and now they are effectively stealing it for themselves.”

Compounding the concern over a potential monopoly was the rampant Marxism being pushed throughout corporate media as ESG scoring made DEI objectives central focuses of the workplace and the product delivered to consumers.

Disney’s focus in particular has reportedly cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars in blockbuster bombs along with Florida’s decision to rescind the special taxing district the House of Mouse had for its Orlando resort after wading into the conversation about the Parental Rights in Education Act.

For their part, Fubo’s complaint sought, “among other things, to enjoin the joint venture or, in the alternative, require the parties impose restrictions on the Defendants in order to proceed, such as economic parity of licensing terms and substantial damages from the Defendants.”

Kevin Haggerty

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