Warner Bros. Discovery channels leave Fubo lineup

Warner Bros. Discovery-owned channels have left the Fubo live streaming TV lineup after the two companies were unable to agree on terms.

In total, 19 WBD-owned Discovery channels left virtual MVPD Fubo as of Tuesday evening, a Fubo spokesperson confirmed to StreamTV Insider, including Discovery, HGTV, Food Network and TLC, among others. In addition, Fubo was unable to secure license rights for WBD’s Turner sports networks including TNT, TBS and truTV.

Both parties released separate statements with some degree of finger pointing.

Fubo for its part claims that it offered WBD “market rates for its content,” saying “despite Fubo’s efforts to negotiate in good faith, Warner Brothers Discovery did not provide any counteroffer, and insisted on continuing to offer us above-market rates for its content.”

“Fubo views Warner Brothers Discovery’s refusal to engage in good faith negotiations as another example of its abuse of massive market power that ultimately limits consumer choice,” Fubo continued in a statement provided to StreamTV Insider.    

However, in a statement provided to STV by WBD, the media company suggests it’s Fubo that isn’t willing to pony up the same amount it already pays for the networks.

“We have been and remain ready and willing to work diligently with Fubo to reach a fair market agreement,” WBD stated. “We proposed an extension of our current agreement, with no changes or price increases, that would allow Fubo to continue carrying these networks, and it is unfortunate that Fubo has decided to alienate their own customers in this way.”

WBD also stated that “Our priority is to deliver the best content, at the best value, to our fans wherever they want to watch it.” 

While carriage disputes are not uncommon between programmers and traditional distributors, there has already been tension brewing between Warner Bros. Discovery and streaming pay TV provider Fubo.

Fubo in February filed a federal antitrust lawsuit against WBD, as well as Fox and Disney, the three of which formed a joint venture with plans to launch a direct-to-consumer sports streaming service this fall using combined assets.  

In its lawsuit Fubo alleged years-long anticompetitive practices by the media companies to stifle the sports-focused streaming pay TV provider and accused the JV formation as stealing from its playbook. The lawsuit asserts resulting substantial harm to Fubo’s business and customers, with Fubo likening the JV entities to a “sports cartel.”  

In its statement regarding the carriage dispute, Fubo pointed the JV’s planned sports streaming app, noting WBD plans to make its Turner sports content available on that service, yet would not agree to letting Fubo offer the same content to its subscribers via a skinny sports bundle separate from the Discovery entertainment and lifestyle content.

Fubo contends WBD’s “refusal to offer Fubo standard market terms and packaging flexibility are more examples of the unfair and anti-competitive practices it and other vertically integrated media companies have imposed on Fubo for many years” and pointed to its recent antitrust lawsuit.

“Fubo is taking action against these unfair market terms to avoid passing on these extra costs to consumers,” the company stated.

However, at least one analyst questioned whether Fubo has ground to stand on. In a weekly insights column on StreamTV Insider industry analyst Dan Rayburn said he wondered whether Fubo attempted to use its antitrust lawsuit against WBD as leverage in negotiations for lower rates in a new agreement. The analyst also cited Fubo’s stance that WBD’s action on licensing was another example of anticompetitive practices, where Rayburn doubted legal ground to support the argument.

“No content owner must license their content to everyone or on the same terms,” wrote Rayburn. “I am very interested in seeing if Fubo has any legal standing when and if the lawsuit goes to court.”

A federal court hearing in the antitrust lawsuit against WBD and other defendants on Fubo’s motion for a preliminary injunction is set for August 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.