YES, MSG Networks step up their GAME with new streaming-focused joint venture

MSG Networks and the YES Network announced a new joint venture that aims to help each company better pursue their streaming ambitions, while also unlocking certain synergies that could benefit the sports television industry at large.

This week, the sports brand said they were joining forces to create Gotham Advanced Media and Entertainment (GAME), which will help each company push their direct-to-consumer sports offerings farther along with the development of various platform technology, data analytics services and operational support for third party providers.

Over the past few years, both companies have offered their own over-the-top sports apps — the YES Network offers in-market access to locally-broadcast New York Yankees games through the YES App, while MSG Networks operates MSG+ for local access to certain NBA and NHL games. Both are essentially standalone products of their respective regional sports networks, which are distributed through cable and DirecTV. (Some New York Yankees games are also available through Amazon's Prime Video; Amazon is a minority owner of YES Network.)

GAME will leverage the best practices and technical solutions learned by each company through the operation of their standalone streaming services. It was not clear from the announcement on Thursday if YES Network and MSG Network have plans to consolidate their apps into a single offering in the future, though a report by the New York Post speculated that could be the case.

A statement from Jon Litner, the CEO of the YES Network, also suggested that the two sports brands could come together, saying each broadcaster would work through GAME to "elevate the fan experience" by developing "new product offerings, and premium features and functionality, to serve audiences like never before, while also providing a scalable tech solution for third-party content owners seeking to deliver state-of-the-art streaming experiences to their customers."

If a consolidated app does come to pass, it could help sports fans in the New York metropolitan area have a one-stop destination for Yankees games and most local NBA and NHL events, easing some of the friction for people who want to watch those games at a time when the broadcast and streaming sports landscape is fracturing.

While regional sports networks in the New York market seem to be somewhat resilient in the face of cord-cutting, the same isn't true in other parts of the country, where the regional sports model has largely collapsed. Sinclair's Diamond Sports Group, which operates around two dozen Bally Sports-branded networks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last March in order to address more than $8 billion in debt. One month earlier, Warner Bros. Discovery said it would wind down its AT&T SportsNet business throughout the year, and a few months before that announcement, Comcast sold its regional sports channel in the Washington, D.C. area.

The collapse of the regional sports model in parts of the country has opened the door for local TV broadcasters to step in and scoop up those rights. Over the past year, the E. W. Scripps Company and Gray Television unveiled plans to distribute certain NBA and NHL games to sports fans in markets where they own TV stations. In most cases, the broadcasters partner with a technology provider to develop a standalone, subscription-based streaming service for sports fans who want to watch games on connected devices.

GAME is hoping to help fill that latter role by helping teams, broadcasters and other industry players to launch their streaming services by offering technology and support-based solutions, including white-label products that are "customizable and capable of delivering locally branded customer experiences, each catering to a client’s particular needs," a spokesperson for GAME said in a statement.

"This joint venture with YES will combine the streaming expertise of two of the largest regional sports networks in the country," Andrea Greenberg, the President and CEO of MSG Networks, said on Thursday. "With the formation of GAME, we seek to marry our collective insight, expertise and best-in-class technology not only to explore enhancements to our own products, but also to offer other networks, teams and sports properties an efficient way to launch a state-of-the-art streaming service. We are excited to partner with YES to create solutions for third-party content providers looking for a seamless way to reach new audiences."