CBS is taking another swing at the streaming-video sector with the launch of a free 24-hour digital sports-news outlet known as CBS Sports HQ.
Executives said the service will feature live news and reporting, game previews and post-game analysis along with deep dives into statistics. Viewers will be able to toggle between live programming and previous segments they may have missed. CBS launches the property today, a few weeks before Walt Disney’s ESPN is slated to introduce a new subscription-based service centered around live events.
“There are a lot of fans out there who have a need for just news, highlights and analysis,” said Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, in an interview. “There is definitely an audience out there for this.”
CBS Sports HQ will be the latest entrant in a growing parade of individual streaming offerings from traditional media companies. CBS has been a pioneer of sorts in the field, launching both CBSN, a live-streamed broadcast from CBS News, and “CBS All Access,” a subscription product that offers original scripted programming along with series from the CBS broadcast network and archival content. Fox News Channel recently said it intended to launch a new live-streamed subscription service with new hosts and programs called Fox Nation.
There are plenty of rivals trying to snare the digital sports-news consumer. A host of new sports sites have launched in recent years, including the rowdy digital outlet Barstool Sports, but CBS executives are confident their focus will make their product appealing. “There isn’t a free way to get sports news and highlights on a video basis, in an always-on format,” said Marc DeBevoise, president and chief operating officer of CBS Interactive.
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CBS has portrayed the development of new streaming services as a key driver of its business development in the months to come. Speaking to investors after reporting fourth-quarter earnings, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves noted the company had garnered a combined five million subscribers to its “CBS All Access” streaming service and an over-the-top version of Showtime and expected to surpass its goal of 8 million subscribers by 2020. Meanwhile, CBSN saw streams rise by 17% in 2017 compared to the year-earlier period. CBS later this year intends to launch a streaming service centered around its “Entertainment Tonight” franchise.
Fans should not expect the new CBS Sports product to emulate programing they see on other outlets. “No yelling,” said DeBevoise, after being asked if some of the programming might seek to compete with what is shown on Fox Sports 1. “It’s about the game,” he said. “It’s about what’s on the field.”
A new CBS Sports HQ staff will work out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the executives said, with some participation from CBS Sports broadcasters and analysts possible during shows looking at recently aired games. The company intends to promote the new service during CBS’ coming broadcasts of the Masters golf tournament and the NCAA men’s basketball championships.
Jenny Dell, the CBS Sports sideline reporter, who will serve as an anchor, as will Jamie Erdahl, who covers college basketball and reports for “The NFL on CBS.” Many of CBS Sports Digital’s writers and analysts will also contribute, including national college football writer Dennis Dodd; senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco; and college basketball columnist Gary Parris. Bill Reiter,who joined CBS Sports Digital in 2016 as a national columnist, will host “Reiter’s Block” every weekday afternoon on CBS Sports HQ.
While the new outlet could try shows related to college football or a big-league draft, said McManus, “primarily we want people to tune into CBS Sports HQ to get the highlights, the latest news and the latest analysis. That really is the charge of this new product.”
At launch, the CBS sports stream will be available on CBSSports.com, the CBS Sports app for key connected TV devices including Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Roku, the CBS Sports mobile app for iOS and Android, CBSN and the CBS All Access subscription service. Executives said they have negotiated for rights to current-season and other types of highlights with the various sports leagues, and continue to hold discussions with them to widen parameters.