• phil cantor/@osgphil

Pro Sports need to get on the streaming TV bandwagon, fast



There was a semi-recent vintage Bruce Springsteen tune called "57 Channels and Nothing On" that had a brief moment or two of popularity and these days might be surprisingly accurate.


How many people in the era of pandemic, are willing to drop the extra $100-$500 extra to have cable TV or Satellite TV just so they can keep their live sports options?


Well, that grouping is mostly comprised of die-hard sports fans who aren't willing to make the leap to streaming TV because they fear losing their beloved teams on television.


And it's a valid concern, not because I'm making fun of the fans, no, it's because sports hasn't figured out Cable TV is going the way of the do-do bird or to some extent paper newspapers. There's no need for either to exist anymore.



Don't misunderstand. I'm painfully aware that there are a large number of people who are not very good at basic technology and would not or could not handle the complexity of dumping the cable they've had for the past 30-years. Seriously, it's a problem for some.


There are also people locked into the horrific and questionable contracts with the providers. Also, many just don't realize they can get live TV without being saddled with the cost of boxes and 500 channels of which they watch 10.


Here are just a few options:


--Rabbit Ears. By an HDTV antenna you may be shocked at what you find. Most local affiliates have 3-5 subchannels with all kinds of interesting programs on them.


--Live TV Streamers. These are the Hulu-Live/YouTube TV's/Sling/Roku's of the world. Yes, you can really get your live cable networks and local stations on these. All you need is a good internet connection and the ability to find apps on your TV.


Yes, there is a catch. Much like sports, cable networks won't let you watch their programming unless you subscribe to a service that carries them. That's right--if you have say, Hulu Live and love watching "The Walking Dead", well, you are shit-out-of-luck. AMC is not on Hulu and that means you can't sign up and use their app either. Which is incredibly short sited and stupid.


This is essentially where sports currently sit. I mentioned the last time I wrote something that if you don't have cable in a Major League Baseball city, you are screwed. Yup, I'm in that boat. The regional sports networks aren't available on any of the streaming services any more. You can't sign up for their app unless you subscribe to a carrier that they are on. Period.




I can't get MLB-TV. Why? Because I live in the town where my favorite team plays. A.K.A "Blackout Rules". Outside of re-investing in cable, my only other option is ATT-TV's streaming service which is a piece of dog-poop and much more expensive compared to Hulu.


The NFL has been working this way for years. To get Sunday Ticket and/or Red Zone, you had to have DirecTV or you again...were shit-out-of-luck. And yes, a ton of people were willing to stick with DirecTV and fork over huge sums of money for Sunday Ticket.


That gravy train is quickly running out. DirecTV is hemorrhaging money and subscribers, it was just spun off/sold by ATT for 1/3 of what they paid for it just a few years ago. It's dying.


The NFL is at least entertaining the idea as their rights fees come up for negotiation of at least moving Sunday Ticket and/or Red Zone to a streaming service or Amazon Prime. Which in all honesty is where the viewers are. Or where they're quickly fleeing.


The NBA, well, they aren't so perfect either. You can find a lot of their programming on streamers or websites. You don't necessarily need NBA-TV to watch games. It doesn't hurt that they run multiple games a week on ESPN/ABC and TNT.


But---there's a catch. Home market blackouts.


That's something I don't understand and not being a legal guy, probably never will. Sure, there was a time when it was believed having a game on TV would ruin the in-person crowd at a game. The NFL only in the past few years relaxed its sellout rule for local TV which was arguably the stupidest broadcast rule/penalty ever imposed.


The NFL's thinking was unless you sold out tickets, you couldn't watch the game locally. That'll get people to attend games, right? Mind you this idea was born in an era where game tickets were $25 instead of $70-plus a Personal Seat License.


The NFL was forced to basically abandon that rule as it often took local businesses banding together at the last minute to purchase tickets to keep the games from being blacked out. Mind you, this was still happening less than 10-years ago.


But the variation of that rule now is this: The regional sports network contract keeps you from watching the game in your city. Sure, it's fine if you are a fan of a team in a different town, you can watch til your heart is content. But if you're a fan of the home team, well, you're screwed--unless you get a TV provider that carries that network.


Which brings us to the low-rated, programming poor RSN's now mostly owned by the schmucks at Sinclair Broadcasting, a company known for it's bent in news and for being incredibly cheap.


They bought most of the Fox Sports Regional Sports networks a couple years ago for way more money than anyone should have. And they're now repurposing those networks around gambling on games. They're now named after their primary sponsor "Bally's" (yes, really). But since they have a monopoly on most of the professionals sports not named NFL, it puts viewers in a bind.


Why? Because they ran away from the streaming services and stayed with cable where they can name their price. Because that is the one thing live programming services have that others can't compete with--live sports. Cable can roll the cost into their yearly price increases and you just have to smile and say "okay".....they know a certain percentage of the population will never give that up.


That's why you pay $150 a month for 500 channels with 10 you actually watch. That's the system we've built over the past 30-years. That's the system that needs to break in order for everyone to return to earth.


Which brings me full circle: Why pay $150 month fo those 10 channels if you can pay $60 for them and walk away any time you're unhappy? That friends is where we are right now.


Yes, I admit, I'm still incredibly angry and bitter over losing the ability to watch my Atlanta Braves in 2021. I have almost no legal options. Sure, I can listen over the radio and can follow on Twitter or the live scoreboards on ESPN or MLB.com, but um, it just isn't the same.


All of these Sports and networks need to be aware, the days of getting $10 a subscriber for one network on cable are coming to close. There are a lot of people who made a lot of money off the business model but the golden goose is on her last legs.


The future is the internet. It always has been. We're quickly approaching a world where most everyone understands how it works and how they can get programming and entertainment on it.


Pro Sports and broadcast networks and heck, even local affiliates can cash in on it too. Some already are.


There's an old saying by one of my photojournalist mentors---"Don't shoot where they are, shoot where they ain't". Meaning if things are moving forward, look ahead don't look back or stay locked in the present. (Not really, but that's how I interpret it now that I'm a retired photojournalist)....




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