FuboTV files antitrust lawsuit to block Disney, Fox, Warner sports streaming deal

Toy figures of people are seen in front of the displayed Fubo TV logo, in this illustration

By Dawn Chmielewski

(Reuters) -Sports-focused streaming service FuboTV said on Tuesday it has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Walt Disney, Fox and Warner Bros Discovery over a planned sports streaming platform by the companies.

Fubo alleges in a statement that the media companies have engaged in a "years-long campaign" to block the sports streaming service's growth by engaging in anti-competitive practices. The recently sports streaming joint-venture "steals Fubo's playbook" it said, and is "the latest example of this campaign."

"This is the straw that broke the camel's back," Fubo co-founder and CEO David Gandler told Reuters. "We tried to be rational and polite. That time is over."

Earlier in February, Fox, Disney's ESPN and Warner Bros Discovery announced plans to launch a sports streaming service later this autumn to capture younger viewers who are not tuned in to television.

The joint venture would create an app that combines the media companies' broad portfolio of professional and collegiate sports rights, which span the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, FIFA World Cup and college competitions.

Fubo claims that the media companies have engaged in "a long-running pattern of styming" its service by engaging in alleged "unfair bundling," or forcing it to carry dozens of non-sports channels, as a condition of licensing.

It also alleges that the media companies charge fees that are as much as 30 to 50% higher than the rates they charge other distributors, among other conduct.

It claims that the sports joint venture is just the latest coordinated step in a campaign to capture this market for themselves.

"By combining to license their must-have sports content on a standalone basis to their own joint venture, other distributors, including Fubo, would be at an extreme competitive disadvantage to the detriment of millions of U.S. consumers," according to the complaint.

Warner Bros Discovery, Fox and ESPN declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

The service, which is yet to be named, is expected to offer an all-in-one programming package that would include television channels, such as ESPN, TNT and FS1, as well as streamed sports content.

(Reporting by Bhanvi Satija in Bengaluru and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles; Editing by Maju Samuel and Sandra Maler)