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Scoop: A first look at Venu Sports

Unannounced features include DVR recordings, multi-view video.

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Welcome to Lowpass! I meant to take this week off, but then I stumbled across something Tuesday evening that was just too juicy not to share: A web-based smart TV app for the much-anticipated Venu Sports streaming service.

This week’s Lowpass newsletter is a bit shorter than usual, which is why I decided to take down the paywall and make it available to all subscribers. Enjoy! And if you do, please consider upgrading to support my work.

Scoop: A first look at the upcoming sports streaming service Venu Sports

Venu Sports, the upcoming sports streaming service jointly run by Fox, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery, is officially slated to launch this fall, pending regulatory approval. The JV already has a reported 150 people working on the service, with most work being done inside of Fox Corp. for the time being – and their work is intriguing.

I know this because some of that work has essentially been happening in public: The Venu Sports team has been developing a web-based app for a popular smart TV platform, and that app has been left publicly accessible on the web. Months away from launch, it appears to be an early development build that shows a service very much in the making, and doesn’t include any word on the exact launch date, pricing, and other key details.

Venu will offer subscribers the option to record individual games.

However, the smart TV app does reveal that Venu intends to offer DVR functionality for live events, multiview functionality to watch more than one game at the same time, and a large library of documentaries, sports-related talk shows, and more. Sports events will be organized by league “hubs,” and there will also be an EPG to access the linear live streams of the TV networks of Venu’s backers, including a number of ESPN and Fox Sports networks.

Venu’s TV app’s home screen launches with a “For You” tab, which is headlined by a row of marquee live events. Underneath that, there’s a row of upcoming “Must Watch” events, complete with an option to record individual games. Other elements on this page include:

  • A “My Library” row, which is currently marked as “coming soon” 

  • A row of league-specific hubs including the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and others, as well as competitions like Euro 2024 and Copa America

  • A placeholder for testing a 2x2 multiview stream

  • A “Top 10 Today” row

  • A number of themed rows like “Gridiron Gang” and “For the Hoopers” for shows and documentaries

  • And finally a list of shortcuts to pages for participating TV networks

One of the hubs in the Venu smart TV app.

There’s also a “live” tab, which offers access to select live programming as well as a simplified EPG. Notable about the latter is that it lists linear feeds of TBS and TNT – two cable networks that do regularly carry sports, but also feature a lot of other programming.

  • When I was browsing the page yesterday, TNT was listed playing the Will Smith movie “The Pursuit of Happiness,” which isn’t exactly sports programming.

  • Also notable: MAX was listed as a TV network as well, despite not having a traditional linear feed.

Venu’s EPG for linear network feeds.

Finally, there's a “Browse” tab that appears designed to offer quick access to individual shows, movies, networks and sports.

  • The list of sports included here is pretty exhaustive, and ranges from basketball to tennis to pickleball to dog shows.

  • Also included: Esports, with content from TBS’ Eleague.

  • That line-up could ultimately change as well, and I don’t expect Venu to be very dog-show-focused. Sorry, Westminster fans!

Browsing Venu by sports.

Venu appears to be coming together quickly. The JV unveiled the branding for its service a month ago, and announced a bunch of new executive hires this week. All of this is happening while the JV is still being reviewed by regulators, with the Venu homepage currently cautioning that a fall launch is “conditional on receiving regulatory approval.”

  • Fox, Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery clearly hope to have Venu up and running in time for fall sports; the NFL season begins on September 5, while NBA preseason games kick off in early October.

  • Some of that pressure can be seen in the Venu Sports smart TV interface: In various places, it still makes mention of “XO Sports,” which appears to have been a placeholder for the final branding.

  • However, developers have also been working on clever features that sports fans will appreciate. One example: Venu will give fans the option to disable the display of game scores in its interface to avoid spoilers.

A list of hubs included in Venu’s “For You” page.

One major caveat: This is a look at a product in development, prior to its official launch. Many things could change in the coming weeks and months, including the design, features mentioned in this article, as well as content depicted in the screenshots above. It’s also to be expected that the actual Venu website, as well as the service’s forthcoming mobile apps, will look and function differently.

The big question left: How much will Venu cost – and will the service be able to find a sweet spot that enough sports fans are willing to pay? Sports has long been the most expensive part of the traditional cable bundle, and it’s a major reason for people to sign up for online pay TV providers like YouTube TV and Fubo.

In fact, the latter sued Venu’s owners in February, alleging that the new service is anticompetitive because it includes content that isn’t available to others without licensing big and expensive network bundles. This puts Venu and its owners in a bind: If they price the service too high, they’ll risk stunting its growth. But too low of a price could give more ammunition to regulators and competitors looking to stop Venu from launching altogether.

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That’s it

I promised to keep this short, so …

Thanks for reading, have a great weekend!

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