Fubo CEO says local teams key for sports streaming

Fubo, which recently reported year-on-year growth in paid subscribers and total revenue, touts itself as not just an aggregator of sports content but one that’s focused on teams and regional sports networks (RSNs).

Speaking at the Needham Technology & Media Conference, Gandler said Fubo differentiates its content by making “a strong push towards sports.” While a number of streamers have introduced live sports, it’s not so much about the sport itself as it is about the availability of local teams.

“If you live in San Francisco, for instance, and you’re a 49ers fan, are you telling me you’re going to be running home to watch the Patriots? That’s not what happens,” he said. “We believe the primacy of sports, at its core, comes down to teams versus just a sport.”

Fubo at the end of 2022 added Bally Sports RSNs to its lineup, bringing its total RSN count to more than 35. Further bolstering its ties to local teams, Fubo this month inked partnerships with Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Guardians.

There’s plenty of buzz surrounding RSNs, given Bally Sports owner Diamond Sports Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March. A federal judge last month ordered Diamond Sports to make partial rights payments it owes to four of five MLB teams, including the Guardians.

Asked if Fubo actually owns the rights to the Bally RSNs it paid for, Gandler declined to comment on the deal’s details but noted the agreement had “protective provisions.”

“They knew going in what could happen, it was the right time for us to do the deal. Clearly it worked out in Q1,” he said. “I think this was the right move and allows us to continue to differentiate our brand.”

Gandler pointed out Fubo originally dropped Bally RSNs in 2020 and in hindsight that was “a terrible deal.”

“In terms of the turmoil around Diamond Sports, I think anyone who acquires that content, including our relationship with the league, everyone wants us to stream local sports,” he said. “Whether it goes to Diamond, Scripps is looking at a few different teams right now, whether the league controls some of the teams. I think, ultimately, we’ll still have the majority of – if not all – local sports.”

Sports aggregator

Gandler went on to say Fubo markets itself as a cable TV replacement service, so that it doesn’t get “bucketed” with the “streaming-plus services.”

“You’ll hear questions like, how can you compete with ESPN+, with Paramount+, we are in the business of aggregating all the media companies that have plus services,” he said.

Beyond sports, Gandler said Fubo is leveraging metadata to better surface content for viewers. For instance, Fubo has several types of channels related to food, like Tastemade and Gusto TV.

The service also added over 100 free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels, which Gandler noted is the “fastest growing segment of our content portfolio.”

“Similar to sports and teams, it’s the same concept. People watch content, they don’t necessarily care about the channel," he said. "What you’re seeing with streaming is people care about having more content versus less. I think there’s more frustration in the market around fragmentation. People just want to go [into] a very simple experience.”