Turner to Stream Soccer -- WSJ

By Joe Flint Features Dow Jones Newswires

Time Warner unit acts as more media target consumers directly, bypassing cable

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This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (August 18, 2017).

Time Warner Inc.'s Turner Sports is launching a streaming, direct-to-consumer subscription service that will be a platform to air the Union of European Football Associations' Champions League and Europa League soccer matches.

The move is part of a push by traditional media companies to launch digital services that reach consumers directly, instead of relying on traditional cable and satellite distributors. Such experiments are becoming more common as consumers drop cable service and embrace newer outlets such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.

The as-yet unnamed Turner network, whose price hasn't been decided, will launch in 2018 when the company's new rights deal for UEFA matches starts. Turner Sports acquired the English-language rights to UEFA matches in a three-year deal valued at more than $180 million, a person familiar with the matter said.

It is the third streaming service Turner has unveiled in less than two years. It has an animated service called Boomerang and a movie service called FilmStruck that specializes in art house films.

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"This is part of a companywide strategy to innovate beyond the traditional ecosystem," said Turner President David Levy.

Last week, Walt Disney Co. said it was creating direct-to-consumer subscription streaming services for its ESPN sports unit as well as its entertainment programming. CBS Corp., which already has a streaming news service and a direct-to-consumer version of its CBS network that also features exclusive content, also said last week it was launching a digital sports service later this year.

Turner, owner of TNT and TBS, won't be putting all of its available sports rights, such as National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball games, into the online service, much as ESPN is only putting a selection of its sports rights into the online service.

While the majority of the more than 340 UEFA games annually that are part of the package will appear on the online sports service, Turner's TruTV network will also have a significant number of matches and games will also appear on TNT and TBS.

UEFA rights were previously held by 21st Century Fox's Fox Sports unit. Univision holds the Spanish-language rights.

Turner will also look to use its popular sports news and commentary website Bleacher Report as a platform to promote the league and a gateway to the streaming network.

Soccer won't be the only sport on the service. Turner Sports President Lenny Daniels said he is "open for business" and having conversations with other sports leagues about the service.

Write to Joe Flint at joe.flint@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 18, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)