Will streaming save sport or kill it?

Will streaming save sport or kill it?

Sports and television have flourished together. Our entertainment future will be shaped by whether streaming and sports can repeat this usually happy partnership.

My colleagues recently reported that Amazon, Apple and Google’s YouTube might be willing to pay popular sports like the National Football League and the National Basketball Association billions of dollars to move their games from TV to streaming services. technological.

For decades, television companies – including CBS and ESPN in the US and Sky in Britain – paid sports leagues big money to be the only place people could watch games. Television money has made sports rich and influential in entertainment and culture. Broadcasting sports has also made television rich and powerful.

Today’s newsletter looks at three questions that would be relevant if tech companies followed the old-fashioned television playbook and expanded into streaming sports online.

1) Why do tech companies want sports?

It’s an obvious answer: companies want to drive subscribers to their video streaming services, and a lot of people love sports.

There are two unknowns for Silicon Valley bosses. First of all, no one has yet proven that a bunch of people would sign up and stick with a streaming service to watch six months worth of baseball games or top European football games. (To be fair, so far few popular sports are available to watch only online.)

The related unknown is whether big tech companies will find it logical to pay silly sums to sports leagues, as old-fashioned television did.

The calculations may not work as well for streaming companies. Disney collects billions of dollars a year from cable companies to include TV channels like ESPN in their programming, and more through advertising. That’s a huge amount of money to pay for NBA games, squash or whatever.

Streaming subscription fees don’t pack the same punch. The largest streaming company, Netflix, has roughly the same annual revenue as a relatively small television company, Paramount Global, which owns the CBS and Comedy Central television networks and the Paramount+ streaming service. Streaming is great in many ways, but it may not be lucrative enough to sustain the sports industry complex.

A counterpoint: Apple, Google and Amazon have endless dollars and can afford to lose money to see if the sport attracts a bunch of new subscribers. But they will also not hesitate to abandon sports webcasting contracts if they no longer correspond to the objectives of the company.

2) Why do sports leagues want streaming?

The major sports leagues have two sometimes contradictory missions. They want as much money as possible and they want a large number of viewers for the games. Tech companies may offer the former but not necessarily the latter.

At the moment, sport on television attracts many more viewers than sport on the Internet. It’s confusing, actually. Kevin Draper, sportswriter for The New York Times, told me that when the same NFL game airs simultaneously on the Fox television network and on the Amazon Prime streaming service, the viewership on Fox is several times more important. During the Super Bowl, about 90% of viewers watch on boring old television rather than online.

This is a dilemma for sports leaders. They are thrilled that Apple, Amazon and Google can rain money on them to stream sports. They also worry that streaming services will reduce sports viewership, which could make their leagues, teams and players worth much less.

Chances are sports leagues will take the bulk of the money from the tech companies – assuming the money is there. Or they will hedge their bets and keep the most popular content on TV and sell the lesser-known games to streaming companies.

3) What does this mean for us?

Probably higher streaming bills.

Anyone who pays for TV — whether you watch sports or not — picks up the cost when ESPN or CBS pays for the rights to broadcast college football or March Madness basketball games. These sports costs have only increased over time.

This has made sports a double-edged sword in the field of entertainment. Games are by far the most popular TV programming, and they’re a big reason why Americans continue to pay for cable or satellite TV. But the rising cost of sports is also persuading people to ditch TV service.

Apple, YouTube and Amazon can afford to spend billions of dollars on sports without raising the prices of subscriptions to their streaming services. But hahahahahaha. If programming costs significantly more, streaming subscription prices likely will too.

I don’t know what will happen next. I can sketch out a scenario in which streaming services have a long marriage of mutual benefit with sports like conventional television has for decades. It could also be great for fans, team owners, and players.

I can also imagine a death spiral of sports and streaming. If people are tired of big sports streaming bills, leagues have less money and fewer fans.

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  • Mark Zuckerberg is eager (or desperate) to switch companies quickly: My colleague Mike Isaac takes us inside Zuckerberg’s project to steer Meta through a difficult phase.

    Related: Kylie Jenner Doesn’t Like the New Instagram: She is one of the biggest app celebrities, and complained about Instagram’s TikTok-like redesign with posts that appear based on computerized ratings of what people might like. This could be a bad sign for Instagram. But people tend to complain about app changes and then get used to it.

  • Apple AirTag against air travel chaos: You have to respect the ingenuity of people who use Apple tracking gadgets to track their lost luggage, as Bloomberg News explained. But the AirTag will not actually help you retrieve your baggage. (Subscription may be required.)

  • The President of the United States has a better Zoom setup than you: The Verge analyzed the technological equipment of President Biden’s work from the West Wing.

Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello in a forest. That’s four minutes of beauty you deserve.


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