At Last, It Has A Name. But Does It Have A Place?

Our long national nightmare is over.  After months of speculation and out-and-out snarking from both sports fans and so-called media pundits alike (including moi, I confess), the unholy alliance of Yosemite Zas, Foxy Lachsie and Bob AIger took advantage of the waning moments of upfront week to make news, such as this summation from THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Alex Weprin:

The forthcoming sports-focused streaming service from Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Fox has a name and logo.

The service will be called Venu Sports (it’s pronounced like “venue”) and the companies say that it is still on track to launch this fall.

“We are excited to officially introduce Venu Sports, a brand that we feel captures the spirit of an all-new streaming home where sports fans outside of the traditional pay TV eco-system can experience an incredible collection of live sports, all in one place,” Said Pete Distad, the CEO of the platform. “As preparations for the platform continue to accelerate, we are singularly focused on delivering a best-in-class product for our target audience, built from the ground up using the latest technologies to engage and entertain discerning sports fans wanting one-stop access to live games.”

Well, yeehah and color me surprised.  It is a different name than the one my inside contact asserted had already been decided upon.  But these kind of things tend to  happen when you try and align even a couple of the Five Families and try to get them to agree upon what to call themselves.  I went through an agonizing and expensive process of a name search when FOX and The Family Channel came together and soldiered through dozens of presentations from agencies commissioned to come up with a name impactful enough to resonate in an overcrowded landscape.  My personal favorite was GLUE because, as its brand book asserted, “it’s programming that sticks to you”.  When an astute consultant poring over the fine print of contracts with cable and satellite systems realized that there were clauses that would allow them to opt out were the specific elements of the network materially changed–which included the name–the many months and hundreds of thousands of dollars of brainstorming and occasional research ultimately became moot.

I’ll piously hope that Distad and his growing staff may have actually spent a little time conducting actual research with sports fans about Venu, since they’ve been on the clock for a few months.  More likely, it was probably landed on by an exhausted room (probably virtual) of his bosses’ lackeys just looking to get back to their kids or walking their dogs.  When I see a mission statement like this I can’t help but recall the one that accompanied another sports smashup beginning with V that was supposed to remake the landscape.  Larry Stewart, the longtime TV sports guru of what was once the Los Angeles TIMES, reported on that back in September 2006:

Hey, did you see that game on Versus last night?”  The executives at Comcast-owned OLN hope someday it does.  Today the test begins as the name changes.

The cable channel that began in 1995 as the Outdoor Life Network — mainly fishing and hunting — and only last July changed to OLN as it picked up the National Hockey League and went indoors, officially has become Versus.

“It has a range that can suit everything from stick and ball sports to bull riding to field sports,” said network president Gavin Harvey.  “Versus captures the essence of our brand,” Harvey said. “We felt it was a slam dunk, and sports fans we talked to all agreed.” Harvey, a UCLA business school graduate who became network president in 2004, said creative director Michael Magnotta came up with the name last October. Focus groups were conducted and Versus was approved in April.

You do recall what happened to Versus.  It ultimately morphed into NBC Sports Network and, at the end of 2021, morphed into history.

What those focus groups–and I’ve conducted hundreds of them–also tell you that is a true fan couldn’t care less what the name of anything is, so long as it is carrying the event they want to see.  And the reality check is that Venu is, at best, only going to have a portion of any particular league or sport a fan may want to follow. As we reported yesterday, the NFL alone will be spread out among eight networks and platforms, of which Venu represents only three.   It has only half of the conglomerates that will be covering the coast-to-coast Big Ten.  And all indications are that when the dust shortly settles on ongoing neogitations  a lot less of the NBA will wind up in this bundle.

So Venu is merely little more than a potential way for some fans to save a few shekels, depending upon exactly what price point and deal Distad and company eventually land upon, which they can now devote their brainstorming efforts to full-time with the name out of the way.  And that’s a far bigger challenge and necessary evil to address because of the massive number of customers out there who are both savvy and budget-conscious enough to be part of a phenomenon which THE STREAMABLE’s David Satin covered in detail in March:

New research from Antenna shows that a challenging subset of customers has arisen thanks to the new realities of streaming: serial churners. This group of consumers who regularly cancel their subscriptions is making it difficult for services to rely on a consistent customer base.

  • Antenna’s data shows that the serial churner segment grew 42% year-over-year in 2023.
  • This segment of customers was responsible for 56 million streaming cancelations last year.
  • Almost 20% of serial churners have canceled seven or more subscriptions in the past two years.

And as MARKETING BREW reported in 2022, it’s not cheap to be constantly wooing fans with a Tinder-like approach to their viewing choices:

Acquiring new customers is expensive; Deloitte estimates that the average customer-acquisition cost in the streaming-video space is $200. If a subscription service charges $12 a month, it’ll take nearly a year and a half to recoup those marketing costs alone. Team up with an established service provider, and companies can divvy up the marketing costs.  

Hence, the motivation for Venu is no different than that of another annoucement that came down earlier this week from another unlikely threesome.  Per REUTERS:

Comcast is set to launch a streaming bundle combining its Peacock service with Netflix and Apple TV+, as the media and broadband company looks to retain subscribers in the face of stiff competition.

The new bundle, StreamSaver, will be available to all its broadband, TV and mobile subscribers and at a “vastly reduced price to anything in the market today,” Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told the MoffettNathanson Media, Internet & Communications Conference on Tuesday.

The tie-up follows a similar one announced last week between Warner Bros. Discovery and Walt Disney – to offer a bundle of the Disney+, Hulu and Max streaming services.

At least they didn’t drag out the process of announcing a name, though my immediate thought is that they probably had to negotiate with an obscure group of entreprenurial urologists to secure the domain name rights.

And do notice that a common thread in this Warner Brothers Discovery, who have spent the last couple of years mashing and morphing the myriad offerings of their own actual alliance.  And had you been aware of what DECIDER’s Angela Tricarico reported in March, you might have already locked in an annual plan that already got you substantial savings. 

So trying to find where exactly is the Venn diagram of those not already committed, who aren’t enough of a fan of something beyond sports to have already acted, and who are open to not being a serial churner out of habit is a much bigger challenge for Venu than trying to establish a brand identity.  Let alone exactly what those silly details that might justify their raison d’etre could be.  And educating the overwhelmed consumer enough to act upon it once they do figure it out.

Let the games begin in earnest.

Until next time…

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