Disney-Fox-WBD Sports Bundle Raises “More Questions Than Answers” For Nexstar Exec Mike Biard, But He Sees Upside If Venture Does “Actually Launch”

Nexstar President and COO Mike Biard says there has been “significant misinterpretation and market overreaction” to the sports streaming bundle announced by Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery.

Speaking on the broadcast TV giant’s fourth-quarter earnings call with Wall Street analysts, Biard said the joint venture plan has raised “more questions than answers.” One question, he pointedly added, relates to “assurance that it will actually launch.”

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Biard spent 23 years as a Fox exec before joining Nexstar last summer.

Looking to address what CEO Perry Sook described as “noise” in the marketplace after the streaming JV news, Biard said, “To be clear, Nexstar will have the option of opting in to secure carriage and compensation for our ABC and Fox affiliated stations. As such, this would be an additive incremental revenue stream for Nexstar.”

Fox and ABC are among the 14 linear networks to be offered by the forthcoming service, with those broadcast networks carrying valuable properties like the NFL, baseball’s World Series and the NBA Finals.

“We believe the three JV partners understand the value of the linear ecosystem, as pay-TV revenues remain vital to each of them,” Biard said. Disney, Fox and WBD, he continued are “largely avoiding the strategies of their peers, which have undermined the value of their core linear networks.”

Paramount and NBCUniversal, which are not part of the JV, have gained a reputation for engaging in “leaking,” meaning distributing premium sports content outside of the pay-TV bundle. NBCU’s Peacock found success with a high-profile example of that strategy, an NFL playoff game last month that was exclusive to the streaming service everywhere but in the two teams’ home markets.

“We know launching a new streaming start-up will be challenging, including potential regulatory hurdles, lawsuit and other complicating factors,” Biard said. “We’ll have to see how it all plays out.”

Hurt by tough comparisons with the political-ad-boosted 2022, Nexstar’s total revenue in the quarter slid 12% to $1.3 billion. Earnings per share declined to $3.32 on a diluted basis, well below the year-ago level of $5.30 and also nearly a dollar less than Wall Street analysts’ consensus outlook.

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