Until recently, sports is the last piece of duct tape holding together viewers and cable packages. Exact estimates vary, but pundits agree, around half of cable subscribers haven’t cut the cable cord because they can’t live without sports.
All signs point to this situation changing rapidly over the next couple of years. A new study by Frank N. Magid Associates finds that 37% of sports fans said they often stream sports online. And LightReading reported on Netflix CEO Reed Hasting’s declaration that sports networks will soon move to on demand. “You’ll be able to watch any game. You’ll be able to watch it on any device,” he told Jim Cramer of CNBC’s Mad Money.
It’s the early days, but we are seeing evidence of the movement in many ways:
- Major League Baseball now offers streaming video of out-of-market games.
- Tennis Channel has an ad-driven TV Everywhere and a subscription-based Tennis Channel Plus offering.
- The National Basketball Association offers single-team packages as part of its NBA League pass streaming service and will sell access to individual out-of-market games.
- The National Football Association introduced NFL Mobile on which Verizon Wireless customers stream many live NFL games for free.
- More than 1,000 hours of streaming content were available for the Sochi Winter Olympics.
- WWE launched the first 24/7 direct-to-consumer sports network earlier this year.
- The number of online college sports packages increased dramatically this year.
The glue that holds together this new version of sports viewing is advertising. Specifically, metadata-based technology allowing advertisers to send customized messages to small groups of viewers with great precision. Ads are inserted into live content on second screens, new content is added to the primary live broadcast, and social media is integrated into both live streaming and video-on-demand, making the future bright for both sports fanatics and those trying to reach them.