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NBC Sports partners up to offer streaming service to restaurants, bars

Looking to buttress its commercial business, NBC Sports is teaming with sports and entertainment company Anschutz Entertainment Group to bundle streaming content from the Premier League, the U.K.’s top soccer circuit, as well as high-profile rugby and cycling fare.

NBC Sports is selling its Pub Pass to bars, clubs and other commercial venues across the U.S., providing live and on-demand content from those properties within a single subscription.

Previously, venue owners purchased the packages individually, said Portia Archer, vice president of direct-to-consumer services for NBC Sports, in an interview.

Archer said the latest move is an expansion of "Premier League Mornings," for which the sports programmer and U.S. rights holder has held events to encourage fans to "watch the matches together while enjoying a mimosa or beverage of their choice. [NBC Sports Pub Pass] provides more opportunities for businesses to attract customers in what are not typically social hours."

Asked about whether NBC Sports Gold's approach differs from Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN + streaming service, which has about 2.4 million subscribers through an array of live games and original content, Archer said the vertical streaming strategy is "more sticky" for consumers and rights holders.

She said NBC Sports can provide content that extends beyond its linear offerings. "These are not bundles, with mass offerings. We cater to those who are really passionate about a particular sport," she said. "For those who like rugby, that’s what they are going to watch.”

The largely international broadcasts will be offered through Amazon.com Inc.'s Fire TV Stick, with the NBC Sports Pub Pass content preloaded.

Beginning Aug. 10, NBC Sports Pub Pass will provide 140 live matches from the 2019-2020 Premier League season that are not airing on NBCSN (US), NBC (US) and other NBCUniversal Media LLC outlets, as well as full replays. Rugby encompasses 185 exclusive matches from the Six Nations Championship, Champions Cup and Premiership Rugby competitions. Patrons can watch additional hours of group stages from cycling events.

During the renewal period that began Aug. 5, a number of subscribers secured the higher-end product, according to Archer.

The subscription base for Rugby Pass is rising, Archer said, adding that data from SportsEngine, the NBC Sports Group subsidiary that supplies software and mobile applications for amateur leagues and tournaments, indicates rugby is one of the fastest-growing youth sports in the U.S.

Cycling Pass, which began in 2016 and stands as NBC Sports Gold's longest-tenured offering, continues to drive new business. Archer had expected things to slow, but the package registered a double-digit gain in subscribers this year.

NBC Sports Gold's domestic roster extends to packages around track and field, supercross and the IndyCar circuit, as well as rookie events for Premier Lacrosse League and PGA Tour Live, which trails featured player groups.

Internationally, the OTT operator has rights in 13 territories and is offering pro motocross and ice skating packages abroad and in the U.S.