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Congressmen Grill Bob Iger, Lachlan Murdoch on Sports JV


The still-in-development sports streaming joint venture is facing scrutiny from Congress.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) asked probing questions of the proposed venture.

The letter, addressed to Disney CEO Bob Iger, Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch and Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, asks for responses by April 30, and to “please copy the Department of Justice in your response.”

The still-unnamed sports joint venture was announced in a surprise move back in February, promising channels from ESPN, Fox, TBS and TNT in a skinny multichannel offering, but lacking channels from NBCUniversal and Paramount, among others.

The move caught its league and distribution partners off guard, with one partner, the Fubo TV, suing to block the JV.

“The Joint Venture raises questions about how this new offering would affect access, competition, and choice in the sports streaming market,” the Congress members’ letter says. “Without more complete information about the pricing, intent, and organization of this new venture, we are concerned that this consolidation will result in higher prices for consumers and less fair licensing terms for upstream sports leagues and downstream video distributors.”

Among the questions raised by the representatives are ones around pricing, distribution and rights. The letter also raises some thorny questions around competition, including on issues that have been brought up by leagues concerned that the JV could undercut their rights deals, and by cable and streaming MVPDs, angry that they can’t get similar packages.

“The Joint Venture Partners currently bid against each other for sports content. However, the new venture will be pooling sports content among the Joint Venture Partners. Will the Joint Venture Partners continue to bid competitively against one another for sports rights as they become available?” the letter states.

The representatives add, “Will the Joint Venture Partners continue to require that MVPDs and virtual MVPDs purchase other programming in addition to their sports channels as a condition of their licensing agreements? Will the Joint Venture Partners continue to require penetration minimums for their sports and other channels when negotiating with MVPDs and other virtual MVPDs?”

The sports JV still does not have a name, a price or even a definitive agreement among the companies, a critical first step in launching any service. It does, however, have a CEO: Pete Distad, an Apple veteran who was hired last month.

The full letter from Reps. Nadler and Castro is below:



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