by Timothy Geigner

Filed Under:
copyright, culture, sports, streaming, tv

Dear Pro Sports Leagues: Can I Watch The Game Please?

from the and-make-it-easy dept

In Mike's latest annual New Year's message about innovation and opportunity, he mentioned how technology is allowing the masses to say "no" to impediments set down by those seeking to control:
"The key element this year: the power of large groups of people to make use of the technology to start to say, "No!" to those who have sought to hold back progress."
A heady concept, but one which I think will only prevail as technology marches forward. That said, I had a slightly different take as a result of a personal story that happened on Christmas Day. Like many of you, I made the trek with my girlfriend to my parent's house to exchange gifts, eat too much food, and sit around with my family and friends talking as the television sat in the background displaying football and basketball. As the night progressed, the food cooled, the board games became boring, and the way my family slings around red wine resulted in the urge to go home early in the evening. Since my girlfriend was kind enough to drive us home (sober, of course), I was free to do what I wanted in the passenger seat.

And what I wanted to do was watch sports. The tail end of the Bulls game was still on. The Bears game would shortly follow. Sports on radio never did much for me. I wanted to watch. So I yanked out my smart phone and checked out the NBA site, the NFL site, and the sites of our local television stations. What I found was what I expected: the local stations didn't offer any streaming of the games, but the NBA and NFL have their versions of mobile streaming packages which generally start right around the $50/season mark. This gets you access to their respective broadcasts (not the local ones).

Here's my question: why is any of this necessary? With that same smart phone, I could have gone to one of dozens of websites (evil, evil websites) that would simply stream the games I wanted directly to my device for free. More to the point, they'd stream the local broadcast that I wanted, complete with commercials. Why wouldn't the major sports leagues do the same thing? If advertising is still the major money-maker for professional sports (and, along with merchandise, it is), why wouldn't they want to increase their reach by offering their own free advertisement-laden stream? Coupled with location identifiers, I'd think the leagues could partner with local broadcasters to make sure that people were getting the same geographical broadcast they'd get watching at home. Again, the same commercials can be in place, so what's lost? Why charge me $50 a season to watch the game on my phone or tablet, but not levy that same charge for watching on my television? It's the ads that matter, isn't it?

It seems I'm not the only one with this kind of experience, either. VC Fred Wilson relates a similar tale, touching on the additional idiocy of navigating local blackouts of games with many of these league packages, all in the name of protecting the same local broadcasters whose numbers could be boosted by offering free streams of the game:
"Last night we were turned into "pirates" as the entertainment industry likes to call us. As 2011 turned into 2012, the executives at Time Warner Cable and MSG Network were unable to make a deal to keep MSG on Time Warner Cable. My son was fuming and so was I."
But he wasn't fuming for long, as helpful Twitter followers showed him a plethora of sites where he could get the stream he wanted, for free, with none of that viewership resulting in revenue for the league or the broadcaster. Which is a shame, because if they wanted to, everyone could be making money off this stuff while enhancing the fan's experience with a better quality stream.

And so we get back to the start of this piece, in contrast to Mike's message of masses saying "no" to those who impede technological progress. Because in my case, driving home that blustery Christmas night, with only thoughts of Derrick Rose and Brian Urlacher in my head, I felt no urge to say "no". I only recognized one sentiment as I glanced over the league's packages for streaming and then turned to one of the evil, horrible, death-enducing sites that gave me the stream I wanted just in time to see Derrick Rose drive the lane and score the winning layup to beat the Lakers: I don't need their packages.

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  1. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 5 Jan 2012 @ 8:48am

    Re: Re: Not just sports

    "We (consumers, movie goers, TV show/sports fans) are not the customers of the companies that produce these things. The advertisers are the true customers, we (or perhaps more specifically, our minds) are the product that is actually being sold."

    That's the point. Why are they limiting their audience? If advertisers are the customer, we're the product. The more of us, the more they can sell the ads for....

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