For years now, as consumer appetites and technology have shifted TV viewing from cable to streaming media, there’s always been one standout holdout: live sports. The needle moved a bit with ESPN3 and WatchESPN, but to see many major sporting events live, especially the NFL, you had to have a cable hookup.
For years, sports fans have asked when the NFL would make the shift to streaming media. After years of hemming and hawing and all sorts of excuses and equivocation, it seems, that answer is closer to “now” than “never.” CNN reports that the NFL has reached a tentative agreement with Amazon to broadcast up to ten NFL games in 2017 through its Prime video streaming service.
Last year, people tried to watch Thursday Night Football on Twitter, but the viewership was tepid at best. Not surprising, in the opinion of most fans, the TNF matchups were the weakest of the week, and that Color Rush gimmick is awful. Combining bad games with eye-sore uniforms, even Twitter’s generally strong feed and easy to use interface wasn’t really enough to call that experiment a success … though, of course, they did. Fans were less charitable.
Then the numbers dropped. Only 243,000 people watched Twitter-streamed games. Compare that to an average of 15.4 million people watching TNF on CBS or NFL Network, and there’s really no comparison. As long as millions of eyes are watching on cable, there’s no way the NFL makes the switch and loses all that advertising revenue.
But forget all the other ideas that have been discussed, this is the ultimate beta test. Amazon Prime boasts tens of millions of subscribers, and it can be easily watched on all mobile devices as well as Smart TVs and others equipped with streaming boxes such as Apple TV. Amazon knows streaming. The company may not have had the same success with original content that Netflix has, but it has seen massive success selling or renting content from other creators.
Given its reach and huge popularity, Amazon could be the key to unlocking live sports on streaming media. If successful this could usher in a new era of streaming dominated TV entertainment, putting Netflix and Prime on the same level as the major cable networks. That could mean even more live sports – basketball, hockey, and even baseball – streaming anytime anywhere.
What comes after that? Well, people are already talking about streaming news media … and doesn’t Jeff Bezos happen to own a newspaper?
Daniel Palmier is a leading Boston CEO, Real Estate Investment Manager, and Founder of UC Funds.