Just a few months ago, numerous publications and articles stressed that the future of streaming television services was inherently limited. The most relevant barrier preventing over-the-top from hitting the mainstream? Live television, specifically access to live sporting events, was touted as the final bastion of traditional cable television. This barrier seems to be on its way down, however, as more networks and sporting associations look to experiment with streaming. In fact, TechCrunch reported that NBC Universal will be streaming Super Bowl XLIX for free online. When the largest athletics event in the U.S. is being viewed over-the-top, the future of sports on demand can’t be far behind.
ESPN available on Sling TV
The biggest news in live sports on demand is the recent announcement of Dish’s Sling TV. The OTT channel will make live television, including ESPN and ESPN2, available to customers over their broadband connection. For the first time, sports fans will be able to follow their favorite teams without subscribing to a cable bill – if the experiment is successful, expect to see a long list of imitators lining up around the corner. Sports is a big business and the market for live games will increase as more cable subscribers cut the cord. Likewise, the availability of ESPN for just $20 may inspire consumers on the fence to make the switch.
“When the largest athletics event in America being is being streamed over-the-top, the future of sports on demand can’t be far behind.”
It is worth noting that ESPN is nearly as critical to the success of Sling TV as the channel is to traditional cable. The Albany Times Union noted that the channel has recently become the most watched network among viewers between ages 18 and 35. Considering that Dish representatives have expressed their explicit desire to market Internet TV to millennials, success attracting subscribers in this age-range is absolutely necessary for Sling TV to take off.
Sony Vue may be next step
If Sony has its way, sports on demand won’t be limited to Sling TV for long. The electronics giant recently announced Sony Vue, an Internet TV channel similar to Sling TV, in the back end of 2014. Missing in the service’s 75 channel line-up is ESPN and several popular networks like ABC, HBO and TNT. Sony helps to rectify this situation as soon as possible – the resource pointed out that the company is already in talks with Disney to add its networks (including ESPN) to its streaming service, according to Variety. Widespread access to sports on demand will be even more likely if ESPN were to jump ship to another OTT service by the end of 2015.
Some experts wary of lost revenues
Don’t expect cable providers to let live sports slip away from television without a fight. The Seattle Times pointed out that cable television’s current sales model depends on the demand for live sports. If sports were to disappear from the picture, it would become increasingly difficult for cable companies to package and sell the remainder of their channel selection. There’s certainly no reason for sports to disappear from cable television completely, but some marketing experts have argued that local sports networks will be hurt if customers begin to back out of their cable bills en masse.
All of these factors will be taken into consideration as Sling TV and Sony Vue battle for control of the brand new sports on demand market. Expect Internet and cable providers to watch the success of the sports on demand experiment closely and offer new cable packages as a means of retaining subscribers.