And Now Professional Sports Teams Are Cutting The Cable Cord, Too

from the united-with-the-public dept

In all of our coverage about cord-cutting, we have mostly focused on how the public is in large swaths ditching cable for over the air and internet alternatives. Aside from that, we've also commented on stories where the networks are looking for new ways to measure viewership of their content given all the cord-cutting that has already occurred. The common theme, however, is that cord-cutting is not some fad and is a full on thing among the public.

And also, it turns out, among some relevant companies as well. I've made the point for a long time that professional sports are the last thread to which cable is clinging. Once the larger leagues out there realize that they can just stream games on their own "networks", cable is over. But perhaps it won't necessarily go at the league level. At least in the case of Major League Soccer, one team has decided to cut the cord themselves and go full streaming.

Soccer fans wanting to watch D.C. United this season will not find matches on WJLA 24/7 News, where they were shown for three years. The games won’t appear on NBC Sports Washington — the team’s platform for much of its first 20 seasons — or Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

In fact, except for select nationally televised matches, viewers will not find Wayne Rooney and United on any standard cable or satellite channels.

That’s because, like millions of Americans, United is cutting the cord and enlisting a pay streaming service for video needs. The MLS franchise said it has signed a multiyear contract with subscription-based FloSports to carry 21 of 34 regular season matches. The remainder will appear on the league’s national TV platforms (Fox Sports, ESPN or UniMas).

So before everyone not into soccer gets into the comments to make the point that soccer isn't the most-watched sport in the United States, yes that's true. On the other hand, the DC United is not some mom and pop sports franchise. As far as soccer goes, DC United has a decent following, as evidenced by their TV contracts. For the team to, on its own, make the decision to go all streaming means it thinks its fanbase will be able to follow the team online just fine without needing a TV screen to do so. This determination is almost certainly correct, given the broader trend in cord-cutting.

“The decision was very much based on what our options were and what was going to be best for our fans to really connect with the team,” said Sam Porter, United’s senior vice president for business and legal affairs. “What FloSports is going to offer is more in-depth coverage and story lines around the team on a year-round basis.

“When you look at all the cord-cutting that is going on, it’s really not as radical as it would have been a couple of years ago.”

The cable companies out there can play pretend that this analysis isn't soon going to fit the views of the more major sports leagues out there if they want, but there is an inevitability here that is palpable. Many have predicted the swift demise of cable television for years and they have been wrong. But sports teams cutting the cord? That's a dark cloud on cable's horizon.

Filed Under: cord cutting, sports, streaming
Companies: dc united


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  • icon
    radix (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 2:07pm

    Cord cutting isn't just about moving to paid IPTV, either.

    At least one other MLS team (RSL) airs all their games on a free OTA local channel, and via a mobile app, also free.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Lamont Flapdoodle, 10 Jan 2019 @ 2:08pm

    Despite losses, cable is still BIG.

    I've made the point for a long time that professional sports are the last thread to which cable is clinging.

    Oy. You spend much filler on attacking cable as if it's about to collapse.

    People haven't given up wasting time what they mistake for "entertainment" -- like soccer -- just change their delivery system, which usually still involves a "cable" company too.

    You're basically like those claiming that FM radio would take over entirely from inferior AM. But it's still around, serves a purpose / market, and so will cable.

    And are efforts underway to end the illegal streaming. Check out Torrent Freak any day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 2:15pm

      Re: Despite losses, cable is still BIG.

      Of course cable is still big. Yes, it will still likely stick around in one form or another.

      The article isn't saying it will die, but rather that it is in the process of being abandoned - and that estimation is based on the overall trend of Cord-cutting, which now has at least one example of a sports team also cutting the cord.

      Basically, the trend continues, and there's a chance that other sports teams will follow suit. If that does happen, Cable TV will take a serious blow. Perhaps not fatal, but it will certainly never be what it was.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 11:03pm

        Re: Re: Despite losses, cable is still BIG.

        "Perhaps not fatal, but it will certainly never be what it was."

        I do love the fact that he's now using AM radio as the analogy. Not only is it an example of how things need to adapt so that they don't become extinct, not only is it several generations behind how most people actually listen to "radio" in the mainstream, but it provides further confirmation about the types of places he gets his "news". That, and the fact that he's incapable of understanding that he's essentially agreeing with us, are good entertainment for a Friday morning.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 2:27pm

      Re: Liars gonna lie

      Why you still here bro?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 2:30pm

      Re: Despite losses, cable is still BIG.

      efforts [are] underway to end the illegal streaming

      Read the article, and you’ll learn about one of them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 4:44pm

      Re:

      You go, blue! Deep throat that corporation, that's a good lapdog!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 10:55pm

      Re:

      "Despite losses, cable is still BIG."

      Yes, that's what happens, these things don't tend to disappear overnight, they just shrink out of irrelevancy. To use the oft-repeated analogy - buggy whips didn't disappear overnight, and there were still horses around for a while after the car was introduced. That doesn't mean that the people stating that there would soon be no need for horse-related amenities in public city street were wrong.

      "You're basically like those claiming that FM radio would take over entirely from inferior AM. But it's still around, serves a purpose / market, and so will cable."

      Yes, as there still exist rickshaws and horse drawn carriages that are used as public transportation today. There's room for niche markets and they're welcome to co-exist. It's just that their time of being the go-to mainstream entertainment provider is going away fast.

      Once again, you think you're disagreeing, but you're actually just reinforcing the points that are made here constantly.

      "And are efforts underway to end the illegal streaming."

      Like the one in the article? Or, are you still too dumb to understand that you won't reduce piracy without offering good legal alternatives?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ehud Gavron (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 11:39pm

        FM/AM vs Cable Companie and FOTA TV

        There was never an FM vs AM war, and nobody ever claimed one would replace the other. The two serve entirely differing purposes.

        FM is near-reception only, and very narrow band, and was designed to transmit two channels (L+R, L-R) for "stereo" purposes. AM is long-range, bounces off the ionosphere at night, only some stations allowed to transmit at full power ("Superstations") and is subject to 'fade'.

        FM was an addition to AM, not a replacement, and one that lives to this day. Nobody pays more for FM than AM and if you switch from one to the other on your car radio nobody but you and your annoyed passenger will care.

        Cable TV wasn't brought on to replace FOTA TV but to augment it. In time the cable companies sought to limit what FOTA could do (mostly successfully, which is why some cable-only channels never went OTA). They also continued raising their fees while demanding exclusive franchises (which cities gave them, then suing when cities tried to create new franchises or alternative infrastructure).

        The two are hardly analogous, but that's not important. What is important is how cable views streaming. Streaming is NOT OTA... but it is effectively bypassing cable's gatekeepers to deliver the same content, sometimes at a higher quality.

        Bypassing the gatekeeper? Whut? That's what's driving cable companies insane, just like it drives Big Media insane that people 'pirate' (not a legal term, not in 17USC).

        It doesn't matter to them that their customers want the content, are willing to pay for the content, and don't want to spend time setting up XMBC, Roku, Kodi, Xbox, whatever. No, what matters to them is to STOP ANYONE OFFERING CONTENT so they don't have to be competitive.

        Until they stop worrying about how to guild their pockets and actually start offering competitive content without extortionist price/price hikes... the only thing they have to fear is the damage they cause themselves.

        "The [Inter]Net views censorship as damage... and routes around it" -- John Gilmore.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 11 Jan 2019 @ 12:24am

          Re: FM/AM vs Cable Companie and FOTA TV

          "There was never an FM vs AM war, and nobody ever claimed one would replace the other. The two serve entirely differing purposes."

          Exactly. Ditto here, where nobody has really said that streaming will completely replace cable, only that the business model of overcharging for packages of channels that people have to buy to get the channels they actually want is doomed. The medium has a future, but it cannot operate as a mainstream business forever on the current model. No business can retain a single way of doing business forever, of course, which is why it's so frustrating to have seen them pretend cord cutting is a myth rather than giving people reasons not to do it.

          It's an evolution, cable just needs to work out where they fit rather than denying the evolution is happening. Our resident bridge dweller just needs to pretend other arguments are being made in order for him to feel superior.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2019 @ 10:19am

          Re: FM/AM vs Cable Companie and FOTA TV

          FM... was designed to transmit two channels (L+R, L-R) for "stereo" purposes.

          No, that was added later.

          Cable TV wasn't brought on to replace FOTA TV but to augment it.

          "Augment" as in boost the signal. Cable TV was created just to improve reception; cable-only channels came later. In other words, the cable TV companies started out by "pirating" OTA signals, and the OTA people were not happy about it.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 11 Jan 2019 @ 3:16am

      Re: Despite losses, cable is still BIG.

      Orkut was huge. Myspace as well.

      And your example concerning radio is cute. I'm certain nobody went bankrupt and radio (specially AM) generates shitloads of money today, just like it was decades ago, right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2019 @ 4:20am

      Re: Despite losses, cable is still BIG.

      just change their delivery system, which usually still involves a "cable" company too.

      You are conflating a delivery system and content curation. Companies will still be needed to supply the infrastructure, but they are not needed to package up content anymore. However the killing of net neutrality is a step towards them imposing themselves as gatekeepers and curators of the Internet sites and services they allow their customers to use.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      radix (profile), 11 Jan 2019 @ 8:31am

      Re: Despite losses, cable is still BIG.

      "People still ride horses. Obviously this whole 'auto-mobile' revolution has been much ado about nothing."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jan 2019 @ 4:20pm

    > Once the larger leagues out there realize that they can just stream games on their own "networks", cable is over.

    Unfortunately cable is not over.

    We're seeing huge investment into control of the internet to constrain and contort communication over it into something more akin to AOL, or re-creation of cable.

    My prediction is that effort in this direction becomes much more turbulent as sports cut away and cable goes into free-fall. The legacy cable giants have one play -- dump their resources into further constraints and control over the internet to save themselves. The fight is already ugly.

    For evidence of this look to the YouTube platform. Increasingly content creators making quality content from home with super low overhead are being squeezed out of the platform through demonetization schemes. YouTube heavily prioritizes legacy cable media such as news channels to try and give them a boost, yet these channels continue to struggle.

    Content creators shifted to funding models such as Patreon to supplement income after access to advertising was cut off. We're seeing financial institutions pressure the monetization platforms unless they too cut off content creators.

    This is not the free and open communication central to what is the 'internet'. It's creation of gatekeeping bottlenecks that construct a new cable network of it, limiting communication so only gatekeeper approved stars have a voice.

    As cable dies the lashing out in all directions will get worse, and increasingly I believe the internet as we know it goes down with it.

    The ideas are out of the box. A revised model bypassing the gatekeepers rises out of it. It's just a monumental amount of constant work to keep it moving. That conflict is never ending. The constraints increase inconvenience where the inconvenience of building work-arounds or new solutions is less inconvenient than doing nothing. New solutions keep appearing on the scene as quickly as new tactics to pen them in are revealed. Incredibly volatile but that genie doesn't go back into the bottle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 10 Jan 2019 @ 5:32pm

    CATV history and streaming

    Community Antenna (nee Access) Television (CATV) was the impetus for allowing cable companies monopolies ("exclusive franchises") to put infrastructure into providing people access to such local broadcasts that they couldn't receive with a normal over the air (OTA) antenna. In time they added content that wasn't delivered by OTA but was only receivable by having big ugly dishes (BUDs).

    Now skip forward about 30 years and cable TV providers and telcos are focused hard on locking down any possible competition. They want to have all the content, and not allow anyone else to access the content.

    That's led to loss of signal for many "channels" (an outdated paradigm) when negotiations ("extortion") had failed to provide the cable TV company the outcome they wanted. NO wall = NO government. Oops, wrong extorsion.

    Here we are now talking about "illegal streaming". That's really simple, right? It's when I take content I don't have a right to stream (no such thing in 17USC) and I stream it (no such thing in 17USC). Some would call this "making available" and equate it to offering the content on e.g. bittorrent. Some would call it offering a "pirate" feed. Either way, still not in 17USC.

    What's more concerning is we're undergoing a cultural shift between
    - it's ok to stream stuff. Hello, YouTube!
    - it's ok to stream some stuff but no dancing baby because music.
    - it's ok to have recorded stuff but don't stream stuff.
    and the slipper slope's next part:
    - it's ok only to stream stuff YOU'VE created, and don't try and fair-use anything because we'll sue your ...
    and if you think the slope ends there it's
    - Congress (ifnwhen they reopen) will pass a law saying it's unlawful to stream anything you haven't created yourself using nobody else's material.

    There are two ways to approach a slippery slope:
    1. Say "Pshaw, there's no slipper slope! Look, Central America never turned communist!"
    2. Fight it at the outset and don't let them get step 1 in before you realize they're gunning for step 10.

    Ehud

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    idearat (profile), 11 Jan 2019 @ 8:11am

    One streaming service per team?

    My first cynical thought about a team going on its own to a streaming service is the current balkanization trend of streaming offerings.
    If sports teams follow the same model as movie studios and other producers have been doing, a viewer would need to subscribe per-team to watch any particular sport.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2019 @ 10:54am

      Re: One streaming service per team?

      I wonder more about what happens when Big internet realizes they can put the NFL out of business by doubling everyone's salaries and not having to pay for rights.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2019 @ 10:56am

    YouTube is the natural outcome of piracy. Its creators do get paid, some very substantially. Many who lost income did so because their content wasn't reflecting well on the YouTube brand. That's a shift within YouTube more than with the market in general.

    The bigger outfits actually help the smaller outfits because people with related videos will have them autoplay after the big video plays.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2019 @ 7:30am

      Re:

      "YouTube is the natural outcome of piracy."

      Not sure I follow. Why is this and how did it come about as it seems a bit backwards.

      Piracy is the natural outcome of monopolistic behavior, a disillusioned populace and a corrupt law enforcement establishment.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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