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Live Sports Break Out of the Bundle

The advent of several new over-the-top subscription sports services could deliver a body blow to the traditional cable bundle.

One of most appealing value propositions of a cable or satellite TV package has been the ability to watch high-profile, live sports programming delivered by national and regional cable sports networks that can’t be seen elsewhere without subscribing to an expensive out-of-market pro sports streaming package.

But ESPN, looking to stem the tide of subscription and revenue losses from cord-cutters, is teeing up live sports content as part of a new subscription-based, multisport service set to launch in 2018. The ad-supported service, to be accessed through an enhanced version of the current WatchESPN app, will offer about 10,000 live regional, national and international games and events per year.

ESPN’s streaming service is a bit of a risk for the 24-hour sports network — it has yet to discuss the OTT service with its current distributors, who aren’t likely to be enthused by its prospects when they’re paying more than $7 a month per subscriber for ESPN’s linear channels. Subscriber losses, though, leave the programmer little choice but to seek new revenue wherever and however possible.

CBS also plans to jump into the OTT ring, hatching plans to model a new, yet-to-be named SVOD sports service based on its national news service CBSN. The company said it has an online sports group in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that it will use for the venture, which is expected to offer live sports programming.

For fight fans, CBS is launching an OTT product specifically for Showtime’s highly anticipated Aug. 26 Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor payper-view boxing match. The offer marks the first time Showtime will make a boxing event available directly to consumers on its website as well as via the Showtime PPV app, for a robust $99.99.

ESPN and CBS will join the four major pro sports leagues, NBC Sports Group, WWE, UFC and other services on the SVOD streaming field, adding even more content for cord-cutters looking to access marquee live sports programming.

Photo courtesy of ESPN.