The Local Darkside of Cord-Cutting

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


A few months ago I wrote about how cord-cutting has become a real option for sports fan with the introduction of Sling.tv and other OTT services. A few months into the switch I have uncovered one downfall of cord-cutting, not being able to watch local teams.

If you live in a region where there is no local sports team foot print (and good luck finding one) then you should be fine. If you live in Colorado Springs and cut the cord then also say goodbye to Avalanche, Nuggets, Rapids and Rockies games while sitting in the comfort of your own home.

Penguins Map

Pittsburgh Penguins Regional Sports Network Map. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The current setup stipulates that if you live in a teams broadcast footprint then you have to watch those teams over their regional sports network (RSN). This is done for good reason too. The RSN’s have paid an absurd amount of money for the rights to these games. For example, the Dodgers received $8.35 billion from Time Warner for their deal and the Padres got $50 million a year from Fox and they haven’t been close to the playoffs since 1999. The last thing these big cable folks would want is to have MLB.tv or NHL.tv jump in and offer  much lower prices for the cord-cutters.

The downside of course is that the local fan who is not seeing their wage increase in this economy (which is a pretty common event) is left out on the cold. The options are to go to the game (not economically practical), spend the money for cable or satellite or go old school, listen to it on the radio.

Is there a viable alternative? Not right now. The facts are this, the costs of sports rights have gone up while incomes have gone sideways. Until RSN’s see a bigger decline in viewership which forces them to seek other profit generators like live streaming then cord-cutters are out of luck. It’s also good to remember that the digital rights of these games are probably still held by the league and the vast majority of these deals are locked up for a large period of time.

Needless to say, cord-cutters…break out the radio. An actual one too because the online radio rights are held by the leagues.

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