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Turner gets in the sports streaming game with UEFA Champions League soccer

Two players vie for the ball during the Aug. 16 UEFA Champions League playoff match at Beer Sheva Stadium in Israel.
(Atef Safadi / European Pressphoto Agency)

Turner is kicking off a new sports streaming video service next year that will carry its coverage of UEFA Champions League soccer.

The service announced Thursday is Turner’s first endeavor in streaming sports coverage — the new frontier in “over-the-top” distribution of programming, in which shows can be watched online without a pay-TV subscription. It comes a week after ESPN announced the launch of a similar streaming service that will offer an array of live events.

Turner’s streaming service will require an undetermined fee from viewers. The Time Warner Inc. unit also will be seeking the rights to other sporting events to put on the service.

Turner is to launch the yet-to-be-named service before the start of the next UEFA Champions League season in September 2018. Turner acquired the TV and streaming rights to the UEFA Champions League in February for a reported $60 million per year through the 2020-21 season.

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The streaming service will give fans additional UEFA matches beyond the ones shown on Turner’s cable TV channels TBS, TruTV and TNT. Between TV and streaming, Turner will carry more than 340 UEFA matches per season.

Media companies are investing in streaming services as a growing number of millennials turn to Internet-connected devices for their video entertainment. According to Nielsen, 62% of U.S. households — about 73 million — use Internet-connected televisions or streaming video devices. In those homes, streaming video consumed by people ages 25 to 34 accounts for 23% of TV usage.

Turner executives believe UEFA matches will be a strong draw for the streaming service. European football ranks among the top five sports among the millennial users on the company’s Bleacher Report website. Bleacher Report will be used as a portal for the new streaming service and provide additional programming and content related to UEFA coverage.

The sports streaming service will be Turner’s third entry into the over-the-top TV business. Last year, the company launched FilmStruck, a service aimed at fans of arthouse movies. In May, Turner announced an over-the-top subscription service called Boomerang that will feature the Warner Bros. library of animation properties.

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stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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