Cutting the Cord: Sports slowly breaking through the pay-TV mold – USA TODAY
SportsÂ continues to be one of the biggest barriers toÂ those looking to sever orÂ trim their pay-TV cord. That’s because weÂ are still a long way from true die-hards being able to go strictly with over-the-top (OTT) Net-delivered sports programming.
For instance, as a fan of the Washington Nationals, Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards â and Baltimore Orioles â the only way for me to get most of those teams’ games is through a pay-TV subscription with the regional sports networks they appear on.
But change is coming as more consumers migrate to the Net for their content.Â Â Fans who follow the NBAÂ will have more options this season for viewing games using NBA League Pass. In addition to the standard $199.99 full-season package for all out-of-market games, the NBA is also offering a $119.99 pass to watch all of an individual team’s games and a $6.99 single-game purchase option.
I could easily see buying several individual games during the season to watch compelling match-ups not shown on ESPN, ABC andÂ TNT, or to catch up on favorite Kansas Jayhawks graduates in the league.
Another Net sports service that just teed off isÂ PGA Tour Live, which streams first- and second-roundÂ Thursday and Friday playÂ from two highlighted groups of golfers that hit the courseÂ before Golf Channel broadcasts begin. The app, initially available on desktop computers and iOS devices, runs $4.99 monthly.Â Coverage of select holes will be included, too, as well as some additional weekend coverage of some tournaments.
Fissures in the traditional pay-TV model seem to be occurring more frequently and will likelyÂ gain in strength.Â Yahoo isÂ streaming one of the NFL’s regular season games, theÂ Oct. 25 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, for freeÂ on Yahoo apps and websites.
Elsewhere, Sony’s PlayStation Vue has madeÂ regional sports networks availableÂ in cities such as Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia in which it has launched so far.
And onlineÂ video-subscription service Sling TV, launched in February for $20 monthly, has ESPN and ESPN2, as well asÂ TNT and TBS,Â which air sports regularly. You can also add a $5 sports package to get ESPNU, ESPNews, the SEC Network and several other sports channels.
Eventually, ESPN will come direct to consumers,Â Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger told CNBC last week.
ESPN could make its move direct to consumers even sooner than Iger suggests, said Richard Doherty,Â co-founder of tech research and consulting firm Envisioneering.Â And surely AT&T has some plans for growing the NFL Sunday Ticket business it gained by acquiring DirecTV. “Fans want it (and) AT&T absolutely can,” he said.
But, as I’ve said before, consumers might want to be careful what they wish for. A piecemeal or a la carteÂ sports TV package could cost more than a traditional pay-TV package,Â said Forrester analyst James McQuivey.
Each of the leagues is “experimenting with trying to monetize superfans directly, just in case the existing pay-TV infrastructure collapses,” he said. “They can’t afford to be the last ones left supporting the existing system.”
A new age of sports TV is in the works. Whether sports fans will embrace it when it comesÂ remains to be seen.Â But it’s coming.
Cutting the CordÂ is a regular column covering Net TV and ways to get it. If you have suggestions or questions, contact Mike Snider via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow him on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
Write a Reply or Comment:
You must be logged in to post a comment.