The linear over-the-top video service that’s most closely identified itself with sports, FuboTV, expanded its roster with some league-specific channels: MLB Network, MLB Network Strike Zone, and NHL Network.
The New York-based virtual MVPD announced these additions Monday.
“With these networks, as well as NBA TV and NFL Network plus dozens of channels offering national, regional and local sports coverage, fuboTV leads other virtual MVPDs as the home of pro sports,” said Ben Grad, head of content strategy and acquisition, in a statement.
Fubo’s plans start at $54.99, but the MLB and NHL channels will require adding either its $5.99 Fubo Extra or $10.99 Fubo Sports Plus options to that package.
“For most sports fans, who are the primary target for FuboTV, these channels will provide greater depth of coverage,” wrote Brett Sappington, vice president at Interpret, in an email.
But FuboTV’s selection of regional sports networks shrank last year after Sinclair Broadcast Group purchased Fox’s baseball-centric RSNs and began demanding higher rates. Sappington noted that New York fans in particular may not appreciate these new channels as much when they still can’t get the Yankees’ YES regional sports network.
The continued absence of ESPN from Fubo’s lineup may also remain an issue.
“Any addition helps, but they don’t really offset the lack of ESPN,” Sappington said. “ESPN has rights to a variety of sports that cannot really be replaced. Fans of those sports will go to where they can watch those games.”
In general, however, Fubo appears to have done well attracting the interest and dollars of online viewers as the video market shifts to what some analysts call “Pay TV 3.0.” In December, for example, Fubo cited a 135% increase in average hours watched, up to 103 hours a week.
Another analyst noted the appeal of single-league channels for people who want to follow their team but can’t tune into every swing of the bat and every pass of the puck.
“People just don’t have time to watch all that much,” said Alan Wolk, lead analyst and co-founder at TV[R]EV. “You want to put it someplace where it will get those hard-core fans.”