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.

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


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.


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.


There’s a Subscription For That

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Every game of the NBA Finals will be televised on ABC which is available without a cable or satellite subscription. Five of the seven games of the Stanley Cup Final will be broadcast on NBC which is also available without a cable or satellite subscription. Does it matter anymore if a game is televised on broadcast or cable/satellite? Yes and not for the reasons you think.

The Finals

Even with the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Final available on over-the-air television channels, you still need either an internet provider subscription or a cable/satellite subscription in order to watch online. Yes. Even though the games are available over-the-air for FREE, you have to pay somebody to watch on your laptop or tablet.

This is not new. NBC does this during the Olympics and while the number of people who don’t pay for either a cable/satellite or internet subscription is small it is still a point of concern.

Why should you have to have a subscription if the game is on FREE TV? That’s almost like saying, ‘well you have to have a monitor in order to watch the game so you have to type in the serial number on the TV before you can watch.’

Just because you have a cable/satellite and/or an internet subscription doesn’t even guarantee you the ability to watch a game online. It all depends on the provider and the network. So if DirecTV doesn’t have an online agreement with ESPN then good luck watching something on the much promoted Watch ESPN app.

If you go back a decade ago when streaming live sports was just getting up and running, you could watch just about anything without so much as a log-in. ESPN Gameplan was free if you were watching online but almost $100 to watch on television.

Last season though, it got to the point that if a college football game is being shown on any of ESPN networks you cannot watch it online at all.

What about the fans? What about the promise of watching anything you want, anywhere you want on any device? You almost can. Just make sure you have a cable or satellite subscription.




Bloomberg.com: The Digital Example for Sports

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Bloomberg is a pretty big company. It’s founder, and current New York City Mayor, is Michael Bloomberg and the company itself has multiple units from Professional Services to News & Media.Those Media assets include Bloomberg TV and bloomberg.com. Telling the difference between the two is sometimes pretty difficult which is why sports leagues should take notice.


Bloomberg.com streams live TV and has on demand original shows like C-Suite. Other networks do this too, sort of. The difference, with Bloomberg is you don’t need any kind of TV subscription. It’s just out there and free for anyone to watch.

That’s right, free for everyone.

Bloomberg Video Page

Not an add on or free with your subscription. Just free.

To watch ESPN3 or use their WATCH ESPN App you need to sign in and prove you have a cable or satellite subscription. Even then you may not get complete access to all the live games (ask DIRECTV users about that). Bloomberg on the other hand is the complete opposite. They give total access to everyone regardless of cable or satellite subscription status.

The NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB all have their own TV networks yet not one has free, live streaming. They all have highlights from their broadcasts but none offer 24 hour live streaming of their studio shows much less their games.

Why not?

In a word, money. They feel they can make money doing it the same old way they’ve been doing it. They also probably fear that if they did something similar to Bloomberg then they’ll upset the cable or satellite operators.

As a man once said, ‘fear is tissue paper disguised as a brick wall.’ Make no mistake cable and satellite providers need content and the more live content the better. Sports is pretty DVR proof which means that people need to sit through ads. Why sports leagues continue to do it the same old way is beyond modern thinking.

To be fair, Bloomberg makes most of their money through their professional services division where they sell financial software tools, analysis and an actual Bloomberg terminal. So they are diversified within the financial world. However, this should mean that they would protect certain assets vs. opening them up to everyone. According to the old game plan that the sports leagues and ESPN are following is, ‘protect the TV and continue to charge the cable and satellite providers more per customer.’ But Bloomberg goes the new route. Open up as many revenue streams as possible by going where your customers are.

Yet here we are. In a world where a financial services/news company live streams their video content 24/7 for no charge and sports leagues and networks don’t or make you verify your paying status.

A word to the sports folks, from leagues to networks, follow the Bloomberg model. You’ll be amazed by the fan support, the young demo’s you’ll attract, and the new ad revenue streams. Or continue do they road you’re going and hope for the best. As one of Rumsfeld’s Rules states, “If you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.” (L.W. Pierson).

How ESPN (and others) Screw College Football Fans on DirecTV

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

One could argue that ESPN was all about the College Football fan. No matter the game, ESPN seemed to carry it on one of its many platforms. Now, ESPN has taken a step backwards. It has let an old TV mindset takeover and in the process screw the College Football fans in the digital age.


Last season, it was a College Football fanatics dream. If you were on DirecTV (which a lot of sports fans are because of NFL Sunday Ticket) and had an internet connection (pretty standard in 2013) you could watch multiple games at one time via DirecTV and ESPN3. On DirecTV you had your main games you flipped between, your XBOX 360 had another game or two via ESPN3 (any game on ESPN3, ESPNU and even ESPN2 was accessible), and yet another game via ESPN3 on your laptop. This year, unless you are a TV and internet customer of the cable provider (Comcast cable and Comcast internet for example) you can only get games shown exclusively on ESPN3. If you do have this, you’re in great shape. If you have DirecTV, we’ll you’re hosed.

Unable to play via XBOX 360

Why was something available last year and not this year? Probably because contracts got renegotiated at some point between last season and this season and with all of the conference realignment going on that is probably a safe bet.

But why would ESPN, the profit center for Disney, backtrack on showing games? Isn’t showing more games, and selling more advertising a great way to make money? Is ESPN really worried about people the digital world cannibalizing the TV profit? What is this, 2006?

In ESPN’s defense, they are not the only one who do this. The Big Ten Network does not allow you watch a game online if it is being broadcast of the Big Ten Network (as we’ve been told by the DirecTV customer service rep).

The bigger questions still remain why? Why treat TV and online separate when as recently as last season they we’re considered almost equal? Why must you have a TV and internet subscription to watch games on laptop, XBOX or tablet? Why isn’t an internet subscription enough? Why limit your customer base to those who have a cable TV subscription? By cutting out the DirecTV customers your losing 20 million people in the US. 

Could DirecTV help? Sure but their iPad app is…well horrible. You can only watch certain channels and only within your home. That’s like buying a car and only being allowed on certain streets.

There are answers out there. The short-term one is Slingbox. This device will make a comeback but not without a price. You’ll need another DirecTV receiver in another room. Kind of a bummer and a lot more money.

The long-term answer is for ESPN, the Big Ten Network, NBC Sports Network, and Fox Sports, to come up with a digital answer…not to say that they don’t already have one.

For example, when ESPN3 shows CFL games, there are ads during the commercial breaks of the broadcasted game. Yes it’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison but not really. Why can’t ESPN, FOX, NBC and others run different ads online as they do on air? It’s not like they aren’t doing it already.

What is really sad is how unprogressive ESPN and others have become. They are taking steps back instead of forward and giving credence that the ‘any device anytime’ line is really just lip service.

What happens now is that fans will use pirated streams to watch the games. Nobody wins there. If the folks at Fox Sports, NBC, and the Big Ten Network (partially owned by Fox by the way) were smart they would flood the digital space with live, free streaming and sell the bejesus out of it. It’s a white space that can be stolen right from under ESPN’s nose. Then again, maybe this is another reason why the digital world will never overtake TV.

The Least Popular Can Be The Most Innovative

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard
The US Open Cup is one of the longest running professional sports competitions in North America. This years installment is the 100th edition and with it comes live streaming. Free live streams of all of the games in the 4th round of the tournament.
Most overlook the US Open Cup with such a busy sports time in North America it’s easy to do. With the Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals, US Open, World Cup Qualifiers, Major League Baseball and the College World Series. TV networks have plenty to choose from and the US Open Cup isn’t going to pull the same numbers the Stanley Cup Finals or NBA Finals are. However there is a market for the US Open Cup and a low cost solution is available to let fans around the country watch the matches.
This is really a perfect storm of opportunity. No TV deal, low production costs, existing bandwidth and an unserved viewer. The one caveat is the bandwidth. If dedicated, high-speed bandwidth isn’t available then the viewer may just turn away.
There is no TV deal for these matches which means that the clubs and US Soccer can try all kinds of new things to let viewers watch the matches. Several platforms are available but most clubs opted for either YouTube or Ustream. YouTube allows channels with 1,000 subscribers to stream video which lowered the barrier of entry even more for content creators.
You continue to hear noise from media companies about TV Everywhere and second screen experience. The clubs in the US Open Cup, whether the New England Revolution or the Carolina RailHawks, took an obvious leap with free live streaming of the Cup matches. That leap, giving the fans what they want. No log ins, no sign ups, and no restrictions.

Not Mastering their Domain

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

The Masters is arguably the biggest golfing event of the year. Like March Madness, it is one of the sporting events that crosses over with sports fans and bleeds into the business day during it’s first 2 rounds. The Masters, like March Madness, makes everything available online but The Masters waits to air content on TV.

The Masters

When The Masters started it was immediately available to watch at masters.com. The same content was not available on TV even though DirecTV had been advertising 8 channels of coverage. DirecTV did not begin broadcasting golf until 3pm Eastern when ESPN began their coverage. Golf’s biggest star, Tiger Woods, had already teed off and was several holes into his round by the time The Masters was available on TV. Doesn’t really make a lot of sense especially when you consider that The Masters is not an official PGA event. It is by invitation only. The Masters sells it’s own advertising and makes it’s own TV deals. In other words, they can almost do as they please.

The Masters has limited commercial time. They do have some massive sponsors though in AT&T, ExxonMobile and IBM. One would think that showing more golf would drive up the viewership and the price for ads. The have very subtle and elegant ads online so you know they have thought about this. The revenue on TV vs online is substantial so why not start the broadcast on TV at the same time as online?

Part of the reason maybe the broadcasters themselves. When they have pre and post shows they can sell ad time during this and they get to keep it all. As mush as we hate to hear the so called ‘experts’ yap and over analyze we’re probably stuck with it for now.

The Masters does make the entire event available on virtually every device you can think of so the fans can watch when they want and where they want. Yet The Masters doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t push the envelope. It is in a position where it has enough credibility to be truly innovative and dictate to the TV folks that every second of every round has live coverage. This is truly a unique position. Time will tell if they ever take advantage of it. Considering that only last August did they finally extend memberships to women I wouldn’t hold my breath.