Tubi, the popular free streaming service known for its massive on-demand catalog of movies and shows, just made a huge announcement that will change the game in the streaming world – they are launching a dedicated live sports offering.
This new portal called "Sports on Tubi" includes 10 live linear channels covering football, baseball, soccer, motorsports and more. Tubi partnered with Fox Sports on this ambitious expansion into live sports programming.
I recently got to preview the Tubi Sports beta and I‘ve got to say, I‘m impressed. The stream quality is solid, the channel guide is easy to navigate and it opens up a whole new dimension to Tubi‘s service. As a longtime cord-cutter and sports fanatic, I think Tubi is making the right moves here.
According to Tubi‘s press release, "Sports on Tubi" will feature the following live channels:
- FOX Sports
- FOX Deportes
- NFL Channel
- beIN SPORTS XTRA
- Pac-12 Insider
- USA Today SportsWire
- Fubo Sports Network
- ACC Digital Network
This programming schedule will also be supplemented by a VOD library containing hundreds of hours of licensed sports content including games, documentaries and analysis shows from partners like the NFL, NASCAR, MLB and Big Ten Network.
The Rise of Free Streaming Sports
To really understand the significance of Tubi‘s jump into live sports, it helps to take a look at the bigger picture trends in how we watch sports today.
As more people cut the cord and move away from traditional cable/satellite TV subscriptions, sports fans have been eager for streaming alternatives. In fact, a 2022 survey found that 53% of cord-cutters say they most miss access to live sports.
The major live TV streaming services like YouTube TV, Hulu Live and Sling TV have capitalized on this demand, attracting millions of subscribers with their sports-centric channel bundles. But these options still come with a high monthly price tag.
That‘s where free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) comes in. Services like Pluto TV, The Roku Channel and now Tubi offer on-demand movies/shows plus live TV without any subscription fees. Sports content has been a huge driver of growth for this category.
To illustrate just how hot FAST is right now, look at some of these statistics:
- Pluto TV monthly active users doubled year-over-year to 68 million globally in 2022
- The Roku Channel saw streaming hours quadruple between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022
- Tubi total view time grew 40% in 2021 to over 200 million hours watched per month
It‘s clear that the combination of free access plus live sports and news is attracting hordes of streamers to these FAST platforms.
Tubi‘s Meteoric Growth Trajectory
As one of the top dogs in the FAST space, Tubi has been on a wild growth trajectory in recent years. Just look at how some of their key metrics have expanded:
Tubi finished 2021 with over 51 million monthly active users streaming nearly 1.7 billion hours. For perspective, that‘s more MAUs than another FAST leader, The Roku Channel, and not far behind Hulu‘s 47 million paying subscribers.
But it‘s not just the sheer size of Tubi‘s audience that matters. Their viewers are highly engaged, streaming 164 minutes per month on average. And Tubi is attracting the coveted younger demos with 55% of their users 44 or younger compared to Netflix‘s 41%.
Clearly Tubi has built something special in the streaming landscape. Now they are leveraging that massive platform and engaged audience to fuel an aggressive expansion into live sports.
Why Live Sports Represent a Big Deal for Tubi
This is a massive move for Tubi. Live sports programming is hugely valuable in today‘s streaming landscape. The major players like YouTube TV, Hulu Live and Sling TV have risen to prominence on the back of their sports offerings. Even free, ad-supported services like Pluto TV have made sports a cornerstone of their content libraries.
Pluto TV airs channels like Pluto TV Sports, NBC Sports, CBS Sports HQ, MLS and more. Sports content keeps viewers tuned in longer and coming back each day for the latest games and highlights.
So for Tubi, a service with a big audience but very little live or sports content, offering 10 dedicated sports channels represents their biggest opportunity yet to drive meaningful growth. It gives sports fans a reason to think of Tubi as more than just free movies and shows.
The live nature of sports will boost time spent on Tubi as users tune in for big games then stick around to continue browsing movies and entertainment content. Tubi founder Farhad Massoudi said it perfectly:
"Tubi is dedicated to evolving the streaming service to offer more diverse content that we know our viewers want to see. ‘Sports on Tubi’ embraces our viewers’ passion for sports content across our vast library, and we are excited to be launching this offering with world-class brands.”
They aren‘t just chasing live sports as a novelty – the data shows Tubi viewers have a big unmet appetite for sports programming. "Sports on Tubi" stands to be a huge driver of growth for Tubi in their war against other FAST competitors.
How Tubi Scored Rights to Marquee Sports Content
So what exactly will sports fans get to watch on Tubi? The lineup of live channels is solid for a free service. But how did Tubi pull this off when bidding for sports rights is so intense these days?
The answer comes down to their partnership with Fox Sports. Fox was willing to provide Tubi with Fox-branded national sports channels plus Fox regional sports networks. These aren‘t easy rights to come by today.
For example, YouTube TV elected to drop Fox regional sports networks from their lineup in 2020 due to skyrocketing costs. At the time, YouTube TV was paying nearly $15 per month per subscriber just for the Fox RSNs.
By aligning with Fox, Tubi has secured quality sports content without breaking the bank. Fox gains expanded reach by having their sports programming on a platform with 51 million monthly active users.
That‘s not to say Tubi won‘t expand beyond the Fox umbrella at some point. In recent years we‘ve seen streaming services make bold moves to acquire sports rights:
- Prime Video pays $1 billion per year for Thursday Night Football
- Apple TV+ paid $2.5 billion for a 10-year deal with MLS
- Peacock paid $2.5 billion for WWE Network/WWE premium live content
Don‘t be surprised if Tubi begins bidding on higher profile broadcast rights once they‘ve proven the viability of their current offering. Live sports could be how Tubi competes for exclusive content rather than just chasing bulk licensed programming.
How to Access Tubi‘s New Sports Channels
Ready to dive in and start watching live sports for free on Tubi? Here‘s a quick look at how and where you can stream the new "Sports on Tubi" channels:
Supported devices: Tubi Sports will start rolling out first on Roku, Fire TV, and Android TV devices. Support for Apple TV, Xbox, PlayStation and smart TVs is expected soon after.
App downloads: To access Tubi Sports, users simply need to install the Tubi app on their streaming device of choice. Here are some handy links:
Cost: As with the standard Tubi service, the Tubi Sports channels are 100% free. Just create a Tubi account and start watching.
Ads: The content is monetized through short periodic ads, similar to watching sports on traditional cable TV. About 4-5 minutes per hour.
That‘s the beauty of Tubi – free access to live sports coupled with a massive on-demand library, completely legal and safe. It really is a game-changer in the streaming landscape.
How Tubi Sports Stacks Up to the Competition
As live sports continue booming on streaming platforms, Tubi now throws its hat into the ring with some powerhouse competitors. Here‘s a quick look at how Sports on Tubi compares:
A few key things that stick out to me:
Tubi Sports offers totally free access unlike competitors like fuboTV and ESPN+ that require paid subscriptions. Massive differentiator.
The channel lineup focuses on widely popular sports like football, baseball, soccer. Not as many niche sports.
Production of original content and full game replays is limited at launch. More focused on live channels.
Streaming quality and features will be basic compared to sports-first streaming services.
Tubi shouldn‘t try to replicate everything ESPN and fuboTV offer. Their path to success relies on striking a balance of quality free live sports supplemented by loads of premium VoD movies and shows. Tubi keeps it simple but effective.
What Does This Mean for the Streaming Sports Landscape?
Tubi getting into live sports puts them on a collision course with free streaming providers like Pluto TV as well as the major sports leagues who are carving out their own direct-to-consumer businesses.
The NFL, NBA, MLB and others have invested heavily in building team apps, subscription services and standalone streaming platforms. For now, Tubi seems focused on acting as an aggregator rather than getting into high-stakes bidding wars on rights.
Tubi‘s model relies on content partnerships and licensing deals that allow them to deliver a breadth of sports content without huge upfront investments. This uniquely positions them to provide a one-stop-shop for sports fans to access games and coverage from across various providers.
But make no mistake, Tubi is now very much a player in the sports streaming space. Look for them to begin pursuing more selective partnerships and higher profile rights deals to differentiate their offering. Live exclusive games or original programs would be a game-changer.
The current TV rights landscape is very fragmented between traditional cable networks and digital newcomers. This creates opportunities for free services like Tubi to swoop in and acquire niche sports programming on the cheap.
While they may not land Sunday Night Football anytime soon, sports like soccer, golf, tennis, rugby and more are certainly within Tubi‘s reach. Let the bidding wars begin!
The Future Possibilities for Tubi Sports
While the launch of these 10 live channels is a great first step, there‘s plenty of room for Tubi Sports to grow into an even more robust offering. Here are 5 bold predictions for what‘s next:
More niche sports channels – Look for Tubi to expand into golf, tennis, cycling, extreme sports and other niches with their own dedicated channels. Live niche sports are a great differentiator.
Exclusive original programs – Investing in original shoulder programming like pre/postgame shows would give Tubi something unique to tout. Rivals can‘t compete with exclusive Tubi Sports content.
Standalone Tubi Sports app – A spin-off app tailored specifically for the Tubi Sports experience makes sense down the road. Features and design could be customized for diehard sports fans.
Individual league "channels" – Tubi could eventually look to partner with leagues like NFL and NBA to launch on-demand channels filled with archival games, docs and analysis akin to a Netflix for each league.
Wagering integrations – Sports betting ads and partnerships already run rampant in streaming. Integrating live odds and more immersive betting features could attract big bettors to Tubi.
The launch of "Sports on Tubi" promises to take free streaming into uncharted territory. This is just the beginning of a bold new chapter as Tubi positions itself as home for both premier movie/TV content and live sports.
Live sports represent Tubi‘s biggest opportunity yet to drive user growth and engagement
Partnership with Fox Sports grants access to quality sports content without breaking the bank
Differentiated positioning as a free option compared to pay services like ESPN+
Tubi Sports still in its infancy – huge potential to expand channels, rights deals and features
For cord-cutters seeking an all-in-one streaming home, it doesn‘t get better than Tubi‘s combo of free live sports and a gigantic on-demand catalog. The competition better take notice – Tubi is officially a major player in the sports streaming arena.