Want to hear a broken record — “traditional television as we know it is over.” That melody has been played over and over again, because, well, it’s true. There has been a steady decline of people who turn to traditional TV(cable/satellite) for their daily entertainment and an increase in those using OTT platforms. Luckily for the TV industry, sports programming still attracts a decent following willing to pay for an 80+ channel package to watch the three sports shows they like.
This advantage, which may be due to people’s preference of watching sporting events in groups (and to older folk clinging on to the comfort of familiarity), will soon be conquered by Over-The-Top (OTT) programming — it’s just a matter of when.
OTT has a few things going for it: low cost, high customization, and no contract required. Because of these convenient benefits the platform generally attracts a younger audience which, coupled with the recent findings that OTT is an effective place to advertise, has caused more networks to ride the over-the-top wave, more recently with — traditional TV’s last remaining hope — sports programming.
Between the high cost of cable sports packages, Disney’s recent announcement of a new ESPN focused streaming service, and the emergence of Sling TV and fuboTV, OTT is poised to become the central place consumers turn to for not only movies and TV shows, but for sports programming.
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Surprisingly, a sports fan, depending somewhat on location, could end their cable or satellite subscription today and be able to (legally) watch most sporting events through an OTT provider. The main preclusion to that is that most of the major leagues have legacy deals with the traditional networks for live rights. There are deals being done for syndication and / or mobile exclusives, like the deal NFL and Verizon have, but until those deals are up for renewal, it’s unlikely anything will change in favor of OTT.
And according to NFL’s president of digital Mary Ann Turcke, broadband bandwidth in a large potion of the country still relies on DSL, which is prohibitive of streaming.
Sling TV, DISH’s favorite and most popular child, is a perfect example of the changing tide. For $20-$40 the streaming service offers a variety of sports channels, including NFL RedZone, ESPN, ESPN2, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2, NFL Network, NBA TV, SEC Network, Pac-12 Network, NHL Network, and ESPN Deportes. Unfortunately, those who are turning to Sling TV for just sports will still have to pay for a few channels they probably won’t watch. But with packages starting at $20 its still incredibly cheaper than a similar package with Direct TV or Spectrum.
There’s also fuboTV, a soccer focused platform packed with channels like beIN Sports (1–10), Football Report TV, Uní Mas, Fox Soccer Plus, and Telemundo. The platform also includes Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, NBCSN, NBA TV, Fox Sports West, NBC Golf, and the Big Ten Network. Fubo’s packages start at $34.99.
For the same price, YouTube TV includes all four major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC), ESPN channels, regional Fox Sports networks, and regional Comcast sports networks, CBS Sports Network, NBC’s Golf Channel, and Fox’s FS1 and FS2.
For $40 a month, Hulu Live can provide consumers with ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPNews, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, and the CBS Sports Network. That $40/mo price includes Hulu’s entire streaming library. Unfortunately, just like the other platforms mentioned above, Hulu does not offer a sports package by itself. But once again, $40 isn’t a bad deal when compared to a $70+ package with half of the sports content.
So Now What?
The list goes on. OTT is locked and loaded. It has the necessary equipment to be the home for sports entertainment. The big issue now is making that experience as convenient as turning on the TV, which for those who own a smart TV it can be, but for those who own a regular TV, setting up a Roku, Apple TV, or Chromecast to use an OTT service can be some what daunting (especially for those 50+). That fear of change and relearning a process can hold a lot of people back from switching over.
Soon, hopefully, smart TV technology will progress with OTT in mind to create a more user-friendly and customizable experience, making switching back and forth between apps like Sling TV, fuboTV, and Twitter, who recently locked down more than a dozen premium sports content deals, as easy and as fast as changing the channel.
Of Course, even with a TV designed with OTT in mind, a weak streaming connection has been known to occur with some platforms. For a die hard sports fan the lack of connection stability can be upsetting. For example, Dish’s Sling TV failed for many fans during this year’s NCAA Final Four, forcing the company to issue an apology. But for those who don’t mind rolling the dice to have a more customized sports viewing experience, at a fraction of the cost, OTT is the place to be.