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FuboTV Banks On Facebank Merger Amid Skinny Bundle Challenges

FuboTV, the sports-first skinny bundle, said it will beef up operations, merging with technology IP developer Facebank Group in a deal the company said it hopes will accelerate plans to be publicly listed on a major stock exchange.

“The business combination of FaceBank Group and FuboTV accelerates our ability to build a category-defining company, and supports our goal to provide consumers with a technology-driven cable-TV replacement service for the whole family,” said FuboTV CEO David Gandler in a statement. Gandler will lead the combined company.

FuboTV is one of a group of so-called “skinny bundles,” providing an online version of cable TV’s traditional bundle of live and linear video networks, typically at a bargain price.

But those bargain rates, consumer expectations and Hollywood demands have put the virtual MVPDs under significant price pressures. Already this year, those pressures helped lead to the shutdown of Sony’s PlayStation Vue Network.

With the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic transforming Hollywood expectations and viewer habits, FuboTV is hoping to build a stronger position with potential subscribers, and possible public shareholders.

“In the current COVID-19 environment, stay-at-home stocks make perfect sense — we plan to accelerate our timing to uplist to a major exchange as soon as practicable,” Gandler said.

Lots of people are being forced to stay home, and are watching online video in such profusion that European governments have successfully asked Netflix, Amazon and YouTube to stream their offerings in lower quality, to ease the strain on available bandwidth there.

But FuboTV would be making a move into the battered equity markets without much in the way of live sports, its main calling card, at least for now. Every major sports league worldwide, including most of those spotlighted in FuboTV ads, are on hold as the COVID-19 pandemic rages.

Facebank was founded by John Textor and Alex Bafer. It develops “technology-driven (intellectual property) for sports, movies and live performances,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

FuboTV differentiates itself from most of its competitors with a sports-first approach (services such as Philo have cut subscription prices by dispensing with expensive sports programming). Content partners include Univision, GolTV and beIN Sports. The service has been available in the United States for five years. It recently launched in beta mode in Canada and Europe, and began adding entertainment content beyond its core sports offerings.

The service offers two tiers, beginning at about $60 a month for more than 100 channels, including live news, sports, movies and other programming from services such as .

FuboTV also has a smaller $20-per-month offering of Spanish-language channels with a heavy focus on futbol (soccer, to most Americans), and says about 30 percent of its base of largely Millennial male subscribers is of Latin descent. The service offers programming in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

FuboTV is available through the web and on most of the major streaming platforms for various devices.

FuboTV backers include 21st Century Fox (now a renamed part of Disney), European pay-TV giant Sky (now part of Comcast, which just purchased free ad-supported video service Xumo and is launching hybrid subscription service Peacock), ICM Partners’ Chris Silbermann, Luminari Capital and LionTree Partners.