The difference between cable and streaming continues to shrink in 2023, as sports fans are going to have another option to catch the MLB playoffs and March Madness in the coming weeks.
Streaming service Max, the Warner Bros. Discovery unit formerly known as HBO Max, has announced plans to offer its subscribers access to live sports events for a limited time beginning Oct. 5.
Users who choose the add-on package, done in conjunction with Bleacher Report, will be able to watch free through Feb. 29. 2024. After that, a $10 per month surcharge will kick in. The package will include games from MLB, NHL, NBA, NCAA Men’s March Madness, U.S. Soccer and more.
The service will be available to both customers of the ad-free and ad-supported subscription options—and give access to both pre- and post-game coverage in addition to the games.
Warner Bros. Discovery will continue to air the games on its broadcast channels, including TNT, TBS and TruTV.
“We want to be everywhere sports fans are and [this] … will enable us to broaden our audience and delight new fans,” said Luis Silberwasser, chairman and CEO, Warner Bros. Discovery Sports in a statement. “We are uniquely positioned to offer viewers the best selection of premium sports and exciting events and fan-focused additional programming, all within a fantastic multi-sport product that will meet the evolving consumption needs of our viewers.”
Beyond March Madness, which will air after the free period ends, the add-on service will carry 60 NHL regular season games, NBA Opening Night coverage (and 64 other games through the season) and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The announcement comes as the lines between streaming services and linear television continue to blur. For the past several years, live sports has been a differentiator for cable and satellite services. But live streaming sports is an increasingly important feature for streaming services. Apple TV is the home of Major League Soccer and carries MLB games. And NBC’s Peacock simulcasts several sports, including NFL games as well as premium WWE events. Netflix, though, is an outlier, with no live sports streaming deals.
The issue of streaming vs. linear was recently in the spotlight in the standoff between Charter and Disney. Charter had hoped to offer Disney’s streaming services, including Disney+, to its subscribers, arguing that the company was moving its best programming away from cable. Disney countered that Charter was devaluing the services Disney was spending billions of dollars on. While that issue was ultimately resolved, it led to an overall selloff in media stocks.