Inside Live Sports’ Cloudy TV Future as Streaming Swallows the Cable Bundle

”I don’t think anybody knows the answer,“ CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus says

Ahead of TV’s biggest night with next Sunday’s Super Bowl LV, the sports industry finds itself at a crossroads. While TV ratings declined to record lows during the pandemic year of 2020 — even with people stuck at home — live sports continued to command the greatest share of overall TV viewing. In fact, as the linear TV industry continues to suffer a massive erosion of viewers, TV sports has never been more important.

But how good is it to be the biggest fish in a rapidly fading business model? Live sports have been the last pillar holding up the old pay-TV model — but it’s not enough to keep people from cutting the cord or from failing to sign up in the first place. The fallout threatens to shove the industry into irrelevance as younger consumers grow up without watching the NFL or NBA in favor of Twitch streams or the endless Netflix scroll.

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Tim Baysinger

TV reporter • • Twitter: @tim_bays