Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Hulu Enters the Fray

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 1.5.2017

Hulu finally announced that they are entering the live streaming fray to compete against DirecTV Now, Sling TV and PlayStation Vue. This has been rumored about for several months but was finally announced this week at CES. Will this be a viable option for sports cord cutters? On the surface the answer appears to be yes.

Hulu announced that the price for the package will ‘under $40’. Translation: $39.99 (Really guys? You think this still works on people?) Second, and this is what has the press buzzing, Hulu got CBS to sign on. This means that you can watch NFL on CBS games (apparently only the game in your local market but they weren’t clear on that) and the elusive CBS Sports Network with this package.

To go along with the CBS Sports Network, you will also get all of the ESPN and Fox Sports channels. In essence you are getting as many channels sports wise than what Sling TV can offer. Although Hulu made no mention of the league networks (NFL, NBA, NHL, etc) or of the collegiate channels (Pac 12, BigTen, Campus Insiders) much less NFL RedZone.

While the selection and price point seem too good to be true, in my experience it usually is.

Hulu Pricing ModelLet’s not forget that Hulu was the online provider that brought us the most ridiculous pricing model known to the Internet. How? By convincing you to pay them to allow you to watch commercials. Also because Hulu is run by studios (Comcast, Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox) which means that they see things through the TV lens. However, they are not dumb and they saw the backlash on DirecTV Now’s rollout and packages that did nothing but move the cable and satellite bundling to a new domain.

Hulu has a chance here but details are too vague to see if this is going to be a true option for the sports cord cutter. Basically no one in the cord cutting universe offers all of the ESPN, Fox Sports, NBCSN, League and Conference networks and CBS Sports Network for under $50 a month. That is a hard thing to do and we’ll have to wait and see if Hulu can do it.

Limits To Rights

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


I’ve written a lot about cord-cutting and the sports fan on this site. I see it as an inevitability that at some point, probably during the re-upping of rights for the major sports leagues, that we will a significant change in how fans can access the games they want to see. The Wall Street Journal article on the YES Network’s negotiations with Comcast only magnify this point.

This past week Joe Flint and Matthew Futterman put together an outstanding article on the cost of sports rights with the regional sports networks. It’s a microcosm of the overall issue. What it really comes down to is different parts of major corporations trying to extract a whole bunch of money from one another.

Sports Rights RSNThis is a very high profile case because it involves the preeminent brand name in all of sports, the New York Yankees. Right now, if you live in the Yankees media footprint and have Comcast, you are not getting Yankees games next week.

Rut Roh.

The writers take it even further by point to this as a case of ‘how much further can this go?’ The consensus seems to be that people are not willing to pay anymore of their cable or satellite bundles even if it means missing the games they want to see. With costs rising and incomes staying flat, people have officially cut back.

This is a very interesting story with the public reaction right around the corner. Flint and Futterman did a great job and this is an article worth reading.

Cost Of Sports TV Raises Stakes in Yankees – Comcast Fight

NBC Sports Fails Again

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

We’ve been critical of NBC Sports on this site but we feel for good reason. They put themselves before the fans which is a problem. From the pre game shows they sneak in when the TV listings state that the game should be starting to NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus suggesting that NHL players shouldn’t grow beards during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Well let’s add the Tour De France to this list of how NBC Sports and their parent company Comcast stick it to the fans.

NBC SPORT TOUR DE FRANCE

It’s the 102nd running of the Tour De France and while cycling is a niche sport in the United States and lacks a Lance Armstrong-esq personality, the event is still one of sports most grueling physical and mental tests. It’s niche classification apparently makes it ok for NBC Sports (owned by cable giant Comcast) to charge fans for online access. While it’s only $30 for the entire tour – which runs until July 26th – it’s still something that sets a bad precedent.

Previously NBC Sports and other networks like ESPN have allowed fans to watch broadcasts online after authenticating a cable/satellite subscription. NBC Sports is now putting that aside and saying ‘nope, that’s not enough. You fans need to pay more.’

This hurts cycling fans and in the end hurts the sport. While the backlash will be minimal due to the small cycling fanbase, one can only image what would happen if NBC Sports pulled the same move during the Stanley Cup Final citing lack of interest due to one of the teams being a ‘small market’ team.

Is the $100 plus cable/Internet bill not enough for NBC Sports parent Comcast to cover the costs of broadcasting the Tour De France? Does the extra $30 from from say 10,000 fans put them over the top? We really doubt it. Especially since Comcast had revenue of $68 billion in 2014. It’s just another case of NBC Sports (and Comcast) sticking it to their customers.

Make no mistake, we would be complementing NBC Sports right now if they sold online access to the ‘cord-cutters’ but allowed paying cable/satellite subscribers free access….but they’re not. It’s feast or famine and at the end of the day it’s bad business. You would generate more revenue by going this route. The passive or new cycling fan who has a cable/satellite subscription could watch. The hard-core cycling fan could watch too even if they are a dreaded ‘cord-cutter’.

NBC Sports approach is short term thinking to a long term issue. It only proves once again that NBC Sports (and Comcast) puts profits in front of the fans/customers and they are still too naive to realize that without the fans/customers there would be no profits.

 

A Breakthrough For Streaming Live Sports?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The fact is that sports have been live streamed online for a long time now. So is DISH Network recent announcement that it will live streaming ESPN and ESPN2 via Sling TV for $20 really that big of a deal? Yes and no.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Currently there are a few legal ways to live stream ESPN platforms. All of them come down to having your subscription authenticated at some point and if you are a DirecTV subscriber you are SOL until later this year. 

With Sling TV you won’t need to have a cable or satellite subscription. Your experience won’t be the same either but at least you can spend a mere $20 a month vs $100 plus for a bunch of cable channels you’ll never watch.

F1 RACE IN BAHRAIN
Live streaming of the F1 race in Bahrain on NBCSPORTS.COM

NO!!!!!!

The fact of the matter is that the cable or satellite companies are going to get their money somehow. That ‘somehow’ is going to be with the data-usage fees. The country’s biggest cable provider, Comcast, currently gives you 300 GB a month with a $10 charge for every 50 GB over that. Seems like a lot until you add in the multiple devices per user and services like Netflix and Xbox One. Add Sling TV to the mix and you’ll be over the limit after the first weekend of College Football.

Live streaming has also been hindered by the experience itself. Bandwidth is not unlimited. If your neighbor is streaming a movie, your kids streaming music or playing online video games then your basketball games streaming quality will go in the toilet. With a cable or satellite subscription, everyone can watch without a signal downgrade. It also isn’t as reliable as your traditional connection. Just ask those trying to stream the Rose Bowl on the Watch ESPN app. 

While $20 is cheaper than $100, when you add that to the Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and future HBO App subscription, your spending close if not more a year.

Conclusion

The fact is that this is a long time coming. While a lot people were hacking their way towards this solution for years it will be nice to get it without the hassle. This application for only $20 a month is a good first step but it’s not the solution. Others will follow and  this service, along with it’s consequences, will make people more aware of issues like net neutrality. Eventually we’ll see more applications like Sling TV but it may be a ways off.

NBC SPORTS….JUST KICK THE DAMN BALL OFF

When Comcast purchased NBC from GE you knew some changes were coming. Versus turned into the NBC Sports Network which now broadcasts MLS matches and CFL games. But as much as things change they always stay the same. NBC Sports continues to put themselves before the fan and the viewer.

NBC broadcast the first NFL game of the season between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants. They star this by dragging out a 90 minute pre game show and right when you think they’re going to kick the ball off they give us an open telling us who the Producer and Director of the show are. They then drag it out a little more with the commentators giving us….I don’t know, more insight I guess. They do the same thing with MLS on the NBC Sports Network. It’s says that kick off is at 4pm but in reality the ball is being kicked off at 4:30. Meanwhile fans and players are left standing around as NBC tries to educate us some more.

Here’s a news flash NBC, KICK THE DAMN BALL OFF. No one cares who the Producer or Director is, and I come from a world where I may know these people. I’m not here for a rock concert or a highlight show or pre game interviews. I’m here for a game.

The kicker to all of this is the flat out pandering of the broadcast. Guys it’s a second half not a second act (actual graphic). This is a football game not a Shakespearean play. I know Toyota is a big sponsor but I can go without the extended commercial with Eli Manning at halftime.

Now NBC Sports is not all bad. They do do some innovative things like streaming the Sunday Night Football game online with multiple camera angles or placing the color commentator on the sidelines of MLS matches. He’s right between the benches and can give more insight on tactics and the momentum of the game.

While they have been innovative they also take massive steps backward with just boneheaded maneuvers. I hate to tell NBC this but I’m not watching The Voice so stop showing me ads for it. I’m here to watch football or soccer and I know I’m not alone.

I understand why MLS will go along with what NBC wants to do because it’s helping the MLS gain more viewers and they are still trying to gain a significant foot hold in the American sports spectrum. Why the NFL does I don’t know. The NFL recently made a rule stating that if you get thrown out of game you’ll have to go through a class to be allowed in the stadium again. I suppose they’re trying to make the NFL game a more family oriented environment but if they are trying to do that then why do they allow NBC to kick the game off at 8:30pm EST on a school night?

I can’t criticize NBC when it comes to the Olympics because I didn’t watch them. Why? Re-read the above. If NBC screws up the NFL and MLS why would I trust them to broadcast the Olympics?

NBC can fix these things. It’s not hard but they have to first get off their high horse and stop thinking that ‘they know what people want to see’ cause they don’t. I want to watch sports and if you’re not going to show it to me then I’ll just watch a channel that will.