Cord Cutting Is Here For The Sports Fan

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


“Cord Cutting” is one of the hip terms thrown around in the cable, satellite and broadcast world. The real question is, is this a viable option for the true sports fan. The sports fan is, after all, why entities like ESPN, CBS, FOX and NBC write checks with three commas in them to leagues to acquire their rights. So the answer is YES you can cut the cord…almost.

SECN on SLING
SEC Network via Sling TV on an iPad.

Dish Network launched Sling TV earlier this year. They keys for Sling TV are as follows: there is no contract, it is $25 a month with the “sports extra” package that includes the ESPN family of networks and is device agnostic. Yes, it is a viable option for the sports fan. While the speed of your internet connection is a factor in how good your picture quality is, overall it’s an easy to use service that allows you to watch all of the ESPN channels anywhere you want on just about any device.

Outside of the ESPN channels, the sports package isn’t anything to scream about. The package also offers beIN sports, Outdoor Channel, Univision IDN and the now defunct Universal Sports. I am not sure that these really qualify for a “sports package” but you get them none the less. So in reality you are paying $5 a month for ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, SEC Network, and ESPN3. ESPN3 is kind of a hidden gem because it can allow you to watch games on ABC which is awesome if you have a bad over the air signal. You can also use ESPN3 and the WATCH ESPN app to watch a second game because your Sling TV account is a single sign on. That means one account, one screen at a time.

Sling TV doesn’t offer rewind functionality or a DVR. These can be annoying but not deal breakers by any stretch of the imagination.

SLING TV
Sling TV on the Roku 3.

If you live out of market then you are still paying for the league apps like MLS Live, NHL Gamecenter, MLB.TV, etc. You can also get NFL Sunday Ticket online in certain markets. The cost is the same as DirecTV but if you have the money it’s an awesome package. All of these apps available on virtually all of the OTT devices, Do your homework though to make sure that the app your looking for is available on the device you are thinking about purchasing.

Twitter

On the positive side, Sling TV’s customer service is pretty awesome especially if you go through Twitter to do it. It’s a pay as you go service but if you pre pay a few months ahead of time then they will give you deal on an OTT player like a Roku or Amazon Fire. I went with the Roku 3 after watching a review by Lon Seidman and despite some minor drawbacks, it’s working out pretty well.

There are drawbacks of course to cutting the cord. If you go the Sling TV route and dump your cable or satellite subscription then you do not get FS1, CBS Sports Network, NBCSN, NFL Network. NHLN, NBA TV, MLBN or your regional sports channels. This means that if you live in a market like San Francisco, Phoenix, Houston, Pittsburgh, etc then you won’t be able to see your local teams in baseball, basketball, hockey and so forth. You’ll also be blocked out by the league packages offered by MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS and be forced to head to your local sports bar or the game itself.

The other drawback is that you are back on over the air TV. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because, well, it’s free. However, if you live in a place with a bad signal then you may not get your basic network channels like ABC or CBS which isn’t a problem until Sunday NFL games roll around.

Something that you may not have thought about ( I didn’t) is the ability to switch quickly between games. On a college football Saturday, I will swap between three or four games at a time. That is very difficult to do if you cut the cord. Instead of changing channels, you are jumping in and out of apps and swapping sources on your TV. It can be annoying but not impossible.

There are work arounds for all of these issues of course. First, grab someones log in so that you can stream games from apps like NBCSN and FOX SPORTS GO. Research and invest in a super strong indoor antenna for your local channels. It may sound hokey in 2015 but if you want your local Sunday NFL games then you’ll definitely need one.

Finally you have to address your internet connection. You’ll want the fastest possible speed you can get and no matter what your cable company tells you, you do have a cap. I haven’t hit it yet but even if I do go over it’s a $10 change. That is still significantly cheaper than a $150 cable bill.

The fact is that you can cut the cord and still watch sports. It’s cumbersome but not as impossible as it was say five years ago. It’s cheaper in the long run but the short term costs and hit you pretty good. The fact remains that true sports fans can now be cord cutters too and it’s is only going to get better.

The Film Room Wins For ESPN

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

MEGACAST DOUBLE BOX

ESPN tried out its ‘Megacast’ for the BCS National Championship on Monday night. While you wouldn’t have noticed if you were watching the game on ESPN if you flipped over to ESPNews or ESPN2 you saw some experiments and one stood out above the rest.

From right: Chryst, Sumlin, Luginbill, Millen, Addazio, Spielman
From left: Chryst, Sumlin, Luginbill, Millen, Addazio, Spielman

ESPNews had the Film Room. This featured analysts Matt Millen and Chris Spielman along with current Head Coaches Kevin Sumlin, Paul Chryst and Joe Addazio and was hosted, more or less, by Tom Luginbill. The main shots they had were the wide side shot of the game so they could see the entire field and watch the plays develop and the skycam that would be directly behind the QB.

Megacast Field

This was really for the super college football fan. Coaches talking about how timeouts effect momentum, blocks and situational play calling while Spielman, who got really excited about a textbook tackle at one point, and Millen would do most of the driving for the show. They would ask questions to the coaches and keeping them involved. This group would get so carried away that they even replayed a run play by Auburn where there were two really good double team blocks. Addazio, the former offensive lineman, got really excited when he saw that.

The experience was not without its flaws. The had to break at the same time as the main broadcast which limited the insight that the coaches could give and Luginbill really was kind of an add on. It appeared that the producers felt they needed someone there to control the clicker and to keep everyone talking in case the coaches and analysts clammed up. In the end, the show could have gone on without him but he did provide some insight on young players at times.

Regardless of what the ratings say, this Film Room concept was a winner for the hard core fans. It was insightful, interesting and a pleasure to watch. While at times rigid it still worked. ESPN obviously cannot do this for every game but at the very minimum having the wide shot of the field available on ESPN3 would be a nice takeaway.