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Streaming Your Home Team’s Games Shouldn’t Be This Hard

“When my 12-year-old enters the adult world, she will not even consider a cable subscription. Would the Devils want to lose her as a fan?”

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Last week, when the NHL signed a $2.8 billion deal to return to ESPN, the emphasis was on digital streaming. The announcement boasted that over 1000 live hockey games would be available through ESPN+.  Still, those consider the trend of streaming-only out-of-market games, as teams don’t realize they are losing fans to local blackouts and cable subscription requirements.

Just for fun last month, I did a Twitter poll asking who of my followers still had cable.  55% said they still had cable.  38% had cut the cord, while 6% literally clicked on “What’s a TV?” 😊

The poll was telling in that more people still had cable than I would have guessed.  Being in my mid-40’s, my followers might also be older and used to cable TV.  Still, any young person I know (I have been an adjunct professor off and on for a decade so I know a few 18-25-year-olds even though many of my friends are 35+) not only doesn’t have cable, they usually don’t have a live streaming service like YouTube TV, Sling TV, or Hulu Live.

In December 2018, I did a Sports with Friends podcast about NBA ratings declining because young people were watching highlights of games and not watching the live game. In it, my guests were critical of the NBA being so loyal to TNT and ESPN that it was losing touch with its younger fan base. The NBA allowing highlights on Snapchat and Instagram was making the live games less compelling.

For me, I subscribe to Hulu Live. And Netflix. Disney+. HBO Max. And a few others.  Still, my main teams that I root for are the Syracuse Orange football, basketball, and lacrosse teams, Arsenal FC, and my beloved New Jersey Devils.  Sure I watch other sports for professional coverage, but those are the only teams I genuinely root for.

‘Cuse games can be found on the ESPN app. ACC Network Extra notably does a really cool presentation where they use college students to host pre-game and halftime shows for different athletic events. Arsenal has more than a few games on NBC Sports or the free Peacock app.  The Devils? Well, that’s a different story altogether.

Madison Square Garden’s app MSGGO app is by far the worst offender.  Owned by a cable company, MSG refuses to design an Apple TV app.  To watch the Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils, a fan has to sign in on their iPhone or iPad with a password from a TV subscription.  Then AirPlay to a TV. 

Apple AirPlay and AirPlay Mirroring Explained

Let’s say a random fan (let’s call him Everett) is watching the Devils game.  In a span of 30 minutes, a phone call, text message, Twitter notification all knock the game off of the TV.  The process is so arduous that it shouldn’t be so difficult.

This is not about the team’s agreements with networks.  Local rights between teams and RSNs are commonplace. Still, it does not need to be so difficult.

For example, the YES Network has an Apple TV app.  Sign in with said credentials, and the Yankees or Nets can be seen with relative ease.

Back to ESPN’s NHL deal.  If that press release about the 1000 games on ESPN+ included local markets, the subscriber base would skyrocket. To live in New York with three local teams, having access to Colorado-Nashville does not motivate me to subscribe.

Cable companies negotiated their rights deals with teams in the hope that live sports would continue to convince fans to keep their respective services.  Some of those agreements have existed for decades.

Still, a deal negotiated in 2020 made the same bad decisions.  The Seattle Kraken, the NHL’s new expansion franchise that is set to begin play in Fall 2021, inked a deal with Root Sports that disappointedly looks exactly like all the others.

The Seattle Kraken & ROOT SPORTS Announce TV Rights Partnership

“The Kraken could have tried putting together a separate, over-the-top streaming package — perhaps even working with a sponsor such as Amazon to get it done in a financially palatable way for everybody,” Seattle Times sports business reporter/columnist Geoff Baker wrote on January 26. “But this wasn’t that type of groundbreaking RSN deal.”

Teams will undoubtedly say that the driving force behind this was financial. There is no naivety in knowing this.  However, as kids are growing up in this digital age, fewer will have televisions and will have less of a connection to their sports franchises.

Major League Baseball has long been a pioneer in streaming baseball games.  Currently, MLB.com offers monthly and annual fees to stream out-of-market games.  The time has come where local rightsholders have to loosen their grip and offer a revenue-sharing option to customers.  Pay a fee in Baltimore and see the Orioles on your phone. For someone without cable in Baltimore, it is easier to become a Red Sox fan than it is to follow the Orioles. It is cheaper to subscribe to an out-of-market team than the one that plays in their hometown. That is what doesn’t make sense?

I cut the cord in December 2017. I celebrated it on social media. I waited to get rid of DirecTV until my cancellation penalties expired.  I invested in a few Apple TV devices, and now I watch television better. There is no “flipping.”  I do not “see what’s on.”  I have lists, see great content all the time, and find the time I spend in front of a TV is quality, and the word “couch potato” isn’t in my vernacular.

Yes, I trade passwords with family only. In exchange for apps that I have subscribed to, I receive logins that I couldn’t get otherwise.  I am not apologizing, and I’m far from alone.

This Devils fan can muddle through that off MSGGO app, but only because I’m a fan since that franchise moved to New Jersey from Colorado in 1982.  If the Devils were on SNY, I could see them through my Hulu Live subscription. Put New Jersey on the YES Network, and their app would work, even though I borrow a login. Still, during the 1st period of Thursday night’s Devils’ 3-2 victory over the Penguins, my TV lost the feed of the Devils game 3 times because of regular cell phone activity.  In one period!

My kids (ages 12 and 9) like the Devils, but if I were not home and there was a game, they couldn’t figure out that app situation if their fanhood depended on it. When my 12-year-old enters the adult world, she will not even consider a cable subscription. Would the Devils want to lose her as a fan?  What incentive could they bring to make their games more accessible? My vote?  Sign with a network like SNY or YES. Those are exponentially easier.

This is not a New Jersey problem. This happens all over the United States, and next week, I can become the 150th columnist this decade to write something about MLB blackout rules that are idiotic.

End the Blackouts | The Hardball Times

The time has come to make local streaming rights available in any market. Stop holding it over just for the cable folks.  Those fine people are getting older, and the future is streaming. 

Television rights are always big-money deals. If the decision to cut the cord comes up, a sports fanhood might not keep the deal going much longer. As a matter of fact, it’d be really nice to see one team break the mold, and make their games more available.

BSM Writers

Keeping Premier League Games Shouldn’t Be A Hard Call For NBC

“Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans.”

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NBC Sports is facing some tough, costly decisions that will define its sports brand for the rest of this decade.  A chance to connect with viewers in a changing climate and grow Peacock’s audience as well.  However, making the right choice is paramount to not losing to apps like Paramount+ (pun intended).

NBC is currently in the business of negotiating to continue airing the Premier League as their current deal ends after this 2021-2022 season.  NASCAR is contracted to NBC (and FOX) through the 2024 season.

NBC’s tentpole sports are the NFL and the Olympics.  

Negotiations for the EPL are expected to go down to the wire. Rather than re-up with NBC, the league is meeting with other networks to drive up the price. NBC has to then make a decision if the rights go north of $2 billion.

Should NBC spend that much on a sport that is not played in the United States? It’s not my money, but that sport continues to grow in the US.

If NBC re-ups with the Premier League, will that leave any coins in the cupboard to re-up with NASCAR? Comcast CEO Brian Roberts hinted that there might be some penny pinching as the prices continue to soar. This may have been one of the reasons that NBC did not fight to keep the National Hockey League, whose rights will be with Disney and WarnerMedia through ESPN and TNT, respectively.

“These are really hard calls,” Roberts said. “You don’t always want to prevail, and sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re wrong, but I think the sustainability of sports is a critical part of what our company does well.”

Roberts was speaking virtually at the recent Goldman Sachs 30th Annual Communacopia Conference. He told the audience that between NBC and European network Sky, that Comcast has allocated approximately $20 billion towards these sports properties.

Comcast CFO Michael Cavanagh spoke virtually at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference and echoed that the company is in a good position to make some strong choices in the sports realm. 

“The bar is really high for us to pursue outright acquisitions of any material size,” Cavanagh added. “We got a great hand to play with what we have.”

While the European investments involve a partnership with American rival Viacom, the US market seems to have apparent limits.

Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway was seen by around 2.19 million people. It was the most-watched motorsports event of the weekend. That same week eight different Premier League matches saw over 1 million viewers. More than half of those matches were on subscription-based Peacock. 

Beyond its massive global fanbase, the Premier League offers NBC/Peacock a unique modern 21st-century sport for the short attention span of fans. A game of typical soccer fan is used to a sport that is less than two hours long. The investment in a team is one or two games a week. 

My connection to the Premier League began before the pandemic.  When I cut the cord in late 2017, I purchase Apple TV.  Setting it up, it asks you to name your favorite teams.  After clicking on the Syracuse Orange and the New Jersey Devils, I recalled that my wife has family based in London, England.  They are season ticket holders for Arsenal, and that family redefined the word “die-hard” fans.

I’ve long been a believer that sports allegiances are best when handed down by family. I love hearing stories of people loving the New York Giants because their parents liked them, and they pass it down to their children.

I’ve successfully given my allegiance to the Devils to my young daughters. 

By telling Apple TV that I liked Arsenal, I get alerts from three different apps when the “Gunners” are playing. The $4.99 is totally worth it to see Arsenal.

Whenever I told this story, I was amazed to see how many other American sports fans had a Premier League team. Students of mine at Seton Hall University rooted for Tottenham Hotspurs, while an old colleague cheers on Chelsea.

Global Is Cool': The Growing Appeal of Premier League Soccer in America
Courtesy: Morning Consult

This is not meant to say that NBC should sign the EPL on my account. The key for any US-based soccer fan is that between Bundesliga, Serie A, and other leagues, there will be no shortage of soccer available on both linear television and streaming services.

Besides, Dani Rojas did say that “Football is life.”  NBC, originator of the Ted Lasso character, should make keeping its Premier League US connection a priority.

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BSM Writers

Media Noise – Episode 45

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Today, Demetri is joined by Tyler McComas and Russ Heltman. Tyler pops on to talk about the big start to the college football season on TV. Russ talks about Barstool’s upfront presentation and how the business community may not see any problems in working with the brand. Plus, Demetri is optimistic about FOX Sports Radio’s new morning show.

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BSM Writers

6 Ad Categories Hotter Than Gambling For Sports Radio

“Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life.”

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For years sports radio stations pushed sports gambling advertisers to early Saturday and Sunday morning. The 1-800 ads, shouting, and false claims were seedy, and some stations wouldn’t even accept the business at 5 am on Sunday.

Now, with all but ten states ready to go all in on sports gambling, sports radio stations can’t get enough of that green. Demetri Ravanos wrote about the money cannon that sports gambling has become for stations. Well, what if you are in one of those ten states where it isn’t likely to ever be legal like California or Texas? Where is your pot of gold?

A Pot of Gold Articles - Analyzing Metals
Courtesy: iStockphoto

Or, let’s face it, the more gambling ads you run, the more risk you take on that the ads will not all work as you cannibalize the audience and chase other listeners away who ARE NOT online gambling service users and never will be. So, what about you? Where is your pot of gold?

Well, let’s go Digging for Gold. 

The RAB produces the MRI-Simmons Gold Digger PROSPECTING REPORT for several radio formats. In it, they index sports radio listeners’ habits against an average of 18+ Adult. The Gold Digger report looks at areas where the index is higher than the norm – meaning the sports radio audience is more likely to use the product or service than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. The report, generated in 2020, indicates that sports radio listeners are 106% more likely to have used an online gambling site in the last thirty days. That’s impressive because the report only lists 32 activities or purchases a sports radio listener indexes higher than an average adult. I looked at those 32 higher indexes, and I think we can start looking for some gold.

Using sports radio as a back page service for gambling will have a limited shelf life. The gambling companies who commit significant money to get results will continue advertising and chase the others away. So, the future of sports radio needs to include other cash cows.

If it is evident to online sports gambling services that sports radio stations are a must-buy, who else should feel that way?  I looked at the Top 32 and eliminated the media companies. ESPN, MLB/NHL/NFL networks, and others aren’t spending cash on sports radio stations they don’t own in general. But Joseph A Bank clothing, Fidelity, and Hotwire should! Here’s your PICK-6 list I pulled together that’s hotter than sports gambling:

  • Sportscard collectors, Dapper Labs, Open Sea- read about Sports NFT $.
  • Online brokerage firms-Fidelity, Charles Schwab, Robinhood, Webull, TD Ameritrade
  • Golf courses, resorts, equipment, etc.- we play golf at home and vacation
  • Hotwire.com, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb, Carnival Corporation, and Priceline.com- we’ve used Hotwire in the last year.
  • FedEx, UPS, U.S. Postal Service, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle-we wired or overnighted $ 
  • Jos. A. Bank, shein.com, macys.com, nordstroms.com- we went to Jos. A. Bank in last three months

The sports card/NFT market is 32% hotter than the sports betting market for sports radio listeners. Everything on the PICK-6 is at least 100% more likely to purchase than an average 18+ Adult who doesn’t listen to sports radio. All listed are at or above indexing strength compared to sports betting. The individual companies I added are industry leaders. Bet on it! Email me for details. 

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