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Warner Bros. Discovery Exec Provides Details on Future FAST Channels, Potential to Expand Live Sports Offerings

David Satin

Earlier this summer, The Streamable reported that amidst the many changes being made to its streaming offerings, Warner Bros. Discovery was at least contemplating developing FAST (free ad-supported streaming TV) channels to live alongside, or even inside, HBO Max.

Few details regarding a potential launch date or what content would be available on future FAST channels were revealed at the time, but some tidbits have emerged. During the Bank of America Media, Communications and Entertainment conference on Thursday, WBD Senior EVP and CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels talked about the company’s priorities in regard to launching a FAST channel, especially with the focus being on next summer's merger of HBO Max and discovery+.

“As we said on the earnings call a few weeks ago, the No. 1 priority is getting this combined SVOD [subscription video-on-demand] product out there with the established tiered structure of a completely ad-free and an ad-lite tier,” Wiedenfels said. “But in the spirit of utilizing the content across as many platforms and offerings as possible, FAST is certainly a very interesting area to play in.”

So while it appears that WBD is still kicking around the idea of launching FAST channels, customers likely won’t see them until after the combined HBO Max-discovery+ service launches. However, with the breadth and depth of the Warner Bros. libraries, there are countless opportunities for the company to launch exciting FAST offerings, from classic films to Looney Tunes and Hannah-Barbera to DC comics to classic HBO series and more.

Launching FAST channels would seem like a logical next step for the refocused company. It has already eschewed its previously announced 45-day theatrical-to-streaming window in order to make more money on films from premium video-on-demand rentals and purchases, and it is shopping discarded Max Originals to other services, hoping to sell of content that doesn’t fit into its new corporate vision.

Free ad-supported services have become monetary bonanzas for their companies recently, so the cash-strapped WBD will undoubtedly want to get its FAST channel sooner rather than later. Pluto TV brings in nearly 70 million monthly active users for its parent, Paramount Global and executives at Fox Corp. have referred to their Tubi platform as “TV on steroids,” with 51 million monthly active users, and those types of viewership numbers mean ample advertising revenue.

Wiedenfels also discussed the possibility of expanding WBD’s footprint in the sports world, though he noted the company would proceed with caution. WBD — which is already a major player in live sports broadcasting around the world — owns TNT and TBS, which offer games from the NBA, MLB, and NHL, and there have been rumors of turning at least one of those cablers into a sports-focused network.

Wiedenfels noted that the company would be disciplined and “not chase trophy assets,” which may explain why it has seemingly been uninterested in pursuing the soon-to-be-available rights for the NFL Sunday Ticket. But, they do have an upcoming deal with the NBA that expires at the end of the 2024-25 season.

The exec did not say that the company was looking for more streaming options to enhance its live sports offerings, but did note that WBD is looking for “out-of-the-box” solutions when it comes to negotiating future deals with sports leagues and echoed CEO David Zaslav in saying that owning sports rights, rather than renting them was more of a priority for the company.


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