Turner Sports has kicked off and tipped off its move into the direct-to-consumer streaming world.
The new Bleacher Report Live service, slated to debut in April, will carry thousands of live sporting events. Those include UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League soccer matches, NBA League Pass games, 65 NCAA championship events, the PGA Championship, National Lacrosse League, the Spring League pro-football scouting event, Red Bull Global Rallycross and World Armwrestling League.
Turner didn’t announce pricing for B/R Live but said it will have “flexible pricing options” for direct access to live games on a per-event or subscription basis. The over-the-top streaming service will be available for iOS and Android devices and on the web, with connected-TV platforms in the works slated to launch in time for the start of Europe’s UEFA Champions League season this summer.
In the first few months, B/R Live will be available for free in a bid to attract users, before Turner puts up a paywall starting in the summer of 2018. Going forward, the games carried on B/R Live “will always be available on a per-event basis. That’s very important,” said Lenny Daniels, president of Turner Sports, at a press conference Tuesday at Bleacher Report’s New York offices.
With the direct-to-consumer B/R Live offering, Turner has “the opportunity to engage fans when and where it suits them,” Turner president David Levy said at the press event.
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Bleacher Report Live will carry reduced pricing for NBA League Pass, the out-of-market live basketball streaming service, starting with the 2018-19 season, according to Turner. Turner Sports operates NBA League Pass in partnership with the league.
Interestingly, B/R Live will let users buy only a portion of NBA games that are already in progress, instead of (as with the existing model) a full subscription to a package of games. Under the “micro-transaction” model, fans will be able to pay perhaps 99 cents for five minutes of live action, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said at the Turner event.
“When you have a two-and-a-half-hour event, some fans know they don’t have time to watch” an entire NBA game, Silver said. “To me, it’s a logical evolution of where we’ve gone” with NBA League Pass. The ability to purchase just a few minutes of an NBA game also will be available through the NBA app and NBA.com, according to Turner.
The announcement from Turner Sports comes as ESPN gears up for the April launch of ESPN+, a sports-streaming subscription service priced at $4.99 per month that promises thousands of live games and events, including MLB, NHL, college football and basketball, tennis, rugby, and cricket.
Last summer, Turner Sports announced a multiyear deal for U.S. rights to UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League games starting with the 2018-19 season. That will comprise more than 340 games per season across linear TV networks (TNT, TBS and truTV) and the streaming service.
Turner execs noted that B/R Live will include a feed of real-time sporting events, with personalization features to match individual fans’ interests. The first event on B/R Live will be coverage of the Spring League on April 7, featuring free-agent quarterback Johnny Manziel.
B/R Live is powered by Turner’s iStreamPlanet, the streaming-infrastructure provider the company acquired in 2015.
Pictured above: Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (r.) and Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger in UEFA Champions League round of 16, March 15, 2018