The future of live sport is streaming
With the recent ESPN layoffs and ever increasing prices of cable packages, live streaming sport could be the next wave of entertainment.
In May, the worldwide leader in sports, ESPN laid off over 100 employees including high profile personalities like Chad Ford and Andy Katz.
In addition to the layoffs, according to the economist, the number of American subscribers of ESPN has dropped by 12 million homes since 2011, a staggering amount in just six years. (http://www.economist.com/news/business/21721664-sports-fans-are-producing-their-own-bootleg-highlights-espn-losing-subscribers-it)
One explanation for the decrease in the amount of subscribers could be due to the increase in prices of sports packages because of the substantial amount of money ESPN pays for their entities.
ESPN currently spends 1.9 billion US dollars a year to air just 17 NFL games, and that number is likely increase again when contracts are up in 2021.
This phenomena is not just limited to ESPN. Sky Sports paid £4.2 billion for rights to five of the seven Premier League television packages while BT paid £962 million for the other two, an incredible 71% hike from the previous deal. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-31379128)
With the dramatic increase in cost for packages, more and more people are turning away from cable and towards streaming, both legal and illegal.
According to research conducted by SMG Insight, 54% of young people aged 18-24 have watched illegal streams of live sport, while a third admitted to watching illegal streams regularly (https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/apr/25/illegal-streams-live-sports-sports-industry-group).
Although this data may be concerning to the sports media giants, there is an alternative way to provide live sports which is starting to be explored, live streaming via social media.
Over the past year, a number of events have been streamed on social media. The NBA D-League streamed all of their games last season on Facebook Live, the FIVB will be streaming all matches of the volleyball World League this summer and most significantly, BT agreed to stream the Champions League Final on YouTube for free.
It is unprecedented that BT agreed to a deal with YouTube considering the amount they pay to air the Champions League. But it begs the question, is livestreaming sport on social media sites a viable option?
Robert Henderson who is the cable and television producer for an American high school commented on the possibility.
“I think the future is really going to be grabbing a camera and there’s newer cameras that have http and put in the URL and go all in one,” said Mr. Henderson
“Streaming live sports via YouTube, Facebook, instagram is the way of the future and it’s here now. Look at what’s happened at ESPN.com they didn’t get on the bandwagon right away and people are cutting the cord via cable.”
It is not just major companies such as ESPN and BT that have been adopting live streaming either. Over the past five years Mr. Henderson has worked on a streaming platform called The Cube which specializes in streaming events at the high school level.
Mr. Henderson said: “I happened to get in on it at the ground level and now that thecube.com has been purchased by TRONC which is Tribune Entertainment Online, what we’re gonna do in the future is going to be amazing because everything’s going in a virtual world, and we can get things out really quickly to a wide audience.”
Although streaming may not be the primary option for live sports at this time, it would be ignorant for ESPN, Sky, and BT to ignore the new market.
If the proper deals with advertisers and social media sites can be worked out, consumers could be watching the Premier League on YouTube instead of cable in the not too distant future.