There’s no doubt that the floodgates will soon be open, and live streaming sports will be a thing. But, at this point, the options are coming out in a veritable trickle, a drip of a few games from a few sports just testing the waters.
The latest platform to reach a deal with a major pro sports outfit? Facebook. The social network plans to livestream one Major League Baseball game every Friday through the balance of the season, as the Boys of Summer become the testing ground for the next stage of consumer media production and distribution.
Cable companies are doing all they can to stop or slow the inevitable shift of sports content over to streaming. While other content has long since been available on mobile devices, live sports has been a lone holdout … unless users already had a cable contract. But, with major networks beginning to offer standalone streaming apps, the writing was definitely on the wall. It was only natural for someone to take the leap.
Twitter tried it first, and, by most accounts, their foray into live sports went pretty well. Now, it’s Facebook’s turn.
One of the first questions many users wanted to know is if the games would be subject to local media blackouts, a very sore subject for myriad sports fans who have often not been able to see their team in certain markets … including their own, at times. The short answer is, no. There will be no MLB or network based blackouts on Facebook. This is different than the deal MLB made with Twitter, in which local games are blacked out.
There’s been a good reason cable companies were reticent to let sports go. Live sports has always been a ratings bonanza for networks. They draw big numbers and keep people in their seats. But in an age where DVRs let people skip the commercials, and social media draws people away from the screen and into interactions during the games, something eventually had to give. Turns out, it was the ratings, which have been steadily falling for live sports in the past few years.
Consumers are just not willing to sit through three-hour games, half of which are commercials like they were when they didn’t have other entertainment options. Many are willing to record a game and start it an hour in. They can watch all the coverage without any of the commercials. Others just want the box scores so they can check their fantasy stats.
Bottom line, the way people watch live sports is changing, and sooner or later, both the leagues and the networks are going to have to admit that and roll with the trends.
Daniel Palmier is a leading Boston CEO, Real Estate Investment Manager, and Founder of UC Funds.