The Recap: Disney Spills Hulu-Disney+ and ESPN Plans, More Bally Sports Drama, and More




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Earnings season trucks on, but Walt Disney took the spotlight based on just how much it spilled this week. We got updates on its efforts to integrate Disney+ and Hulu, as well as ESPN, and even its password-sharing crackdown plans. 

DISH likewise offered a lot of nuggets of info in its earnings. Bally Sports, meanwhile, continues to flirt with disaster as it navigates its way through bankruptcy proceedings. 

As always, there was a lot going on in the world of cord cutting. But that’s why The Recap exists, to catch you up on the biggest stories and why you should care about them. 

Here’s what you need to know from this past week.

Disney Tidbits Galore

Disney, which is facing increasing scrutiny from an activist investor looking to shake things up, offered a lot of details on where things were headed in the next year. CEO Bob Iger announced on an investor call that a beta version of its app that combines Disney+ and Hulu on-demand content will launch next month, with the official release coming in March. 

Ahead of the call, Iger said in a CNBC interview that he expects to launch a streaming version of its ESPN network by 2025, which is a year earlier than reports had pegged it.

Iger even offered an update on its efforts to crack down on password sharing, noting that the impact wouldn’t be felt until 2025. That’ll come as a relief for those still sharing a password with friends and family (which definitely isn’t me). 

A Battle Over the Fate of Live Streamers

While the Federal Communications Commission is slated to look at whether it should apply cable-style regulations on live-streaming services like YouTube TV, Fubo, and Sling TV, there’s already a heated battle on the issue. 

A group of local TV stations want the FCC to make the change, which would force the live-streaming services to renegotiate with each station for different terms, something the services say is untenable and could lead to more blackouts. On Monday, 23 House Representatives sent a letter to the FCC objecting to the move. 

This isn’t a partisan issue. All 23 of those representatives were Democrats. But just a month earlier, 20 U.S. Senators, also Democrats, called for the FCC to make the change. 

It’s still a while before the FCC will look at this issue, but this battle isn’t cooling down. 

DISH Dishes

Disney wasn’t the only one with lots to share. DISH Network kicked off things with a disappointing earnings report, having lost 64,000 video subscribers, the result of DISH satellite customers losing 181,000 subscribers as the pay-TV business continues to crumble. 

While on a call to discuss the results, DISH Chairman Charlie Ergen squashed rumors of a deal with DIRECTV, saying there were no plans for a combination. 

With both DISH and DIRECTV likely bleeding traditional customers, speculation had heated up that the two would combine. But for now, they’ll remain separate players. 

It capped things off with a round of layoffs, with some employees claiming up to 20% of the staff being cut. 

More Free Streaming Services, But With a Twist

Warner Bros. Discovery, Lionsgate, and Gray Television are partnering with a new company called Free TV Networks to create new networks offered for, you guessed it, free. 

The twist here is that these networks will be available over the air through Gray’s local broadcast station, as well as via streaming. The project will launch with two channels on New Year’s Day. The first is The365, a curated library of African-American programming, and the second is Outlaw, which will focus on Westerns. 

Bally Sports Still in Trouble 

It’s one step forward, and one step back for Bally Sports. Earlier this week, the struggling regional sports network signed a deal with the NBA that would keep the league in the fold. The deal, which is key to Bally getting out of bankruptcy, is only for one season. 

One wrinkle is the deal lets the 15 NBA teams that have signed on with Bally Sports offer up to 10 games this season for free over the air, possibly letting them test out alternative partners after next season. 

Another is language in the contract that lets the NBA teams walk away if Bally Sports can’t renew its deal with Charter’s Spectrum early next year. That gives Spectrum a lot of negotiating power. 

The NBA teams have reportedly set up backup plans to go elsewhere if Bally Sports loses the TV rights. 

At least Bally Sports+ was working this week, right?

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