The Online Sports Network That Wasn’t

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

It appears that we are at a tipping point with the live streaming of sporting events. While the rumblings have been there for many years it finally seems like we are about to crossover into a world where you will finally have a choice between your typical cable or satellite subscription and an online only version. The surprise shouldn’t be that we’ve gotten to this point but it should surprise people that Yahoo could have led this change.

Yahoo Big

Yahoo is a big company with an enterprise value around $35 billion. It employs over 10,000 people but is has also had enough drama in the C Suite to fill a CNBC special. One direction it didn’t pounce on when it had the chance was the realm of live streaming.

Tracking Yahoo’s live streaming opportunities goes all the way back to 1999 when they purchased Broadcast.com for $5.7 billion and in the process making Mark Cuban a billionaire. Since then Yahoo has been live streaming various types of content from SEC football games on Jefferson Pilot to UFC events (free and paid). Now it is streaming a concert a day with its Yahoo Live platform.

Screenshot 2015-02-23 20.10.00

So why isn’t Yahoo synonymous with live streaming sports? They clearly have the cash, infrastructure, and smarts to pull it off yet here they sit on the sidelines as Dish Network launches Sling.com. Going through three CEO’s in 2012 alone probably didn’t help matters but one has to wonder why a company with a giant user base and brand name didn’t gain the digital rights of various sporting league?

Expense was probably one of the reasons. Look the NFL and Premier League rights are not cheap by any means of the imagination. Even with a presumed 70-30 split you’d have to figure that access to Yahoo’s users and prominent placement on the homepage would have led some leagues or college conferences for that matter to think long and hard about a deal with Yahoo.

Just think where Yahoo would be today if they had thought outside of the box when it came to the live streaming of sports. Imagine soccer matches rom around the globe, collegiate athletics or even something as niche as the Canadian Football League all being streamed via Yahoo. How did Yahoo not lock up the digital rights to the PAC-12 when they launched there network a few seasons ago?  They are in the same zipcode!

Yes hindsight is 20/20 but the opportunities where there. From it’s original purchase of Broadcast.com in 1999 to now with it’s daily live streaming of concerts from across the country. Yahoo has had opportunity after opportunity. Now as the sports landscape shifts to a true anywhere, anytime on any device environment, Yahoo sits on the sidelines wondering why it’s on the bench.

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