Could the Sports Leader be coming to a streamer near you?

Achording to Mathew Belvidere of CNBC ESPN, one of the most sought after cable channels available, will be available A La Carte. In An article posted today quoted Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger as saying

“If we end up seeing more erosion in the so-called multi-channel [cable and satellite TV] bundle, quality will win out,”
Whether this erosion takes place over the next five years as the CNBC story suggests or whether the timeline is a lot faster the mere fact that it is being discussed as a real possibility in the future is considerably more than significant. Until recently ESPN execs have been saying that there are no plans to introduce a bundle free option.  Right now the closest thing anybody has to a bundle free option for ESPN is through Sling TV. Sling TV though is really a system of easier to deal with non contract bundles than it is a la carte TV. You still can’t very well just order ESPN. At this point ESPN is available via Sling’s introductory price of $20.00. That includes a number of other major content offering such as TNT, AMC and 19 more. This is significant because it is the first sign that ESPN is willing to look past standard practices, but not exactly what people are clamoring for.
ESPN better be making back up plans
Why is there a five year bubble floating around the proverbial back yard waiting to burst when it comes to ESPN A la Carte? The dirty little not so secret about ESPN is that it is funded in great part by people who could care less about the service it offers. Not to say that this makes it any different than other basic cable channel, but what it means is that as viewers who do not value sports drop cable and satellite service, which is very much on the rise, then it means ESPN loses part of their revenue stream. As media companies lose subscribers they up the prices on services in order to make up for the subscriber losses. That in turn leads to more customers feeling the squeeze and dropping pay TV services. It should be a frighting scenario to look at not just for ESPN but other basic cable channels as well. ESPN unlike HBO has always been available without a premium price. So while HBO has been able to start offering an OTT service for $15.00, which is what people paid with cable packages, ESPN would have to create a new paradigm.
Expect a Disney Bundle
ESPN is not a network unto itself. Because ESPN is owned by Disney I would expect to see the network and the rest of the ESPN family; ESPN2 ESPNU, ESPN News, The SEC Network, ESPN Classic to be packaged with other properties such as ABC, multiple Disney Channel options and who knows what else Disney will purchase going forward, as a mini-bundle for what it considers a reasonable price. In fact I really think this is more likely how linear TV will work across the board going forward, but that is another story.

The NFL is in the process of revamping its online outreach with promises of a new app. In a letter that went out to subscribers to NFL Now’s premium NFL Now Plus. service the league informed users that the paid version of NFL Now was no longer going to cost money. The service features a number of NFL licensed programming options including NFL highlights,  Hard Knocks, Video Yearbooks, past Super Bowl videos and more. We featured the full lineup in our article here.

So what is happening To NFL Now?

The league informed subscribers that it would be announcing a new service for the 2015 season. When NFL Now was announced as a concept in january of 2014 we theorized based on comments by the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development Vishal Shah, that the app on multiple streaming devices and wireless devices was a stealth way for the NFL to work its way into the OTT world without arousing the suspicion of its current TV partners in the cable and broadcast world. Shah clearly implied that the NFL would look at live game streaming See here Most at risk if the NFL were to jump into streaming headlong would be the pay TV industry which leverages the popularity of the league by offering the NFL Network. Could the NFL be looking to take the next step of offering the NFL Network via Roku, Apple TV, Android TV and FIre TV?

Does the NFL want to Copy the WWE Network Model?

The NFL Network as an over the top option would be another major blow to cable. Ironically if it were to jump to OTT it would be following the WWE Network, which of course is actually a sports entertainment company. The company claims to have at least 1 million subscribers to its service which included access to WWE original content, archived wresting event from multiple decades as well as the jewel of the offer access to live PPV events each month for $9.99.

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A la carte tennis channel “Tennis Channel Plus” saw huge growth during its first year of existence including a major surge in usage during the French open which featured 260+ hours of coverage, 140+ live matches and encore replays, and 120+ hours of nightly primetime show French Open Tonight. The service which costs a one time fee of $79.99 per year or a more flexible $11.99 per month allows users to watch expanded coverage of major events throughout the year. While not a full replacement for the actual tennis channel it provides a great option for tennis fans who choose to drop cable as well as die hards who just can’t get enough net action. According to a press release 25% of subscribers use the online service once daily. Of those users 50% stream from their computers, 25% used tablets, 15% via media streamers (Apple TV and Roku) as well as 10% on mobile phones. 

To see the full original release click here

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It’s Draft Day. Want to see whether Winston is in fact the number 1 pick in the draft? Today you will have something in common with the future millionair. Neither of you are going to be at the draft in Chicago. So how do you keep up or watch it?

There are a few ways to check it out

The Watch ESPN App
I am not telling you to watch the channel. If you can’t be home during the draft and have a cable subscription check out the draft on the Watch ESPN app for multiple platforms to stream the NFL draft live.

NFL Draft Live
This is not a full live feed of the NFL draft. But it promises to have interviews with the players and reactions from experts and so on.

Listen Live ESPN Radio
The Draft is not really a visually stunning event. If you have seen it before you are probably used to the looped clips of offensive linemen blocking or running backs….running while the hosts fall all over themselves talking about the picks.

The NFL is moving quickly towards the future and the future is streaming its product live professional football, the most valuable product on television. It’s making precise moves that will change the way Sports on TV works in the future. In February we reported that the NFL was looking at streaming a regular season game and now we know which one. According to the Wall Street Journal‘s Kevin Clark, the league plans for a 2015 regular season game in week 7, The Jacksonville Jaguars VS The Buffalo Bills to be streamed live. As many important developments tend to be, this information has not been heavily reported so far because the sports community is obsessed with “hot button” stories like Adrian Peterson and his feud with the Minnesota Vikings. But this is actually one of the most important developments in television history.

Why Jacksonville VS Buffalo
There are a great number of factors at work here. For one the game will take place in London. It will take place in the morning 9:30 am and it is between two teams that have very poor a national following. This is likely why they shipped the game to the UK in the first place. You are pretty unlikely to see the Dallas Cowboys play The Packers exclusively online unless it turns out that online streaming is the most profitable and heavily watched way to distribute NFL football. It will give the league a chance to see how things work without being overwhelmed with viewers, though you can be sure that it will be heavily promoted because of it’s historic nature which brings me to my next point.

Expect the game to be on NFL Now
As of the writing of this The NFL has not named a platform or partner for the game. But here is my guess. The game will be streamed on NFL Now, and possibly Verizon cell phones. This is how the league streamed it’s heavily watched championship game this year (we all know what it’s called but are not supposed to say it). While the Journal reported that the NFL will likely find a partner I think it already has the partner. NFL Now launched this fall with a slick campaign “I Want It Now” and it got loads of publicity during its initial launch, but what will push the service which currently costs $1.99 per month and offers a treasure trove of NFL content including archived NFL Films, weekly and daily features, fantasy football information and so much more, to a new level will be the announcement that live football is on the way to NFL Now.

At the initial announcement for the app in January of 2014 the NFL’s vice president of digital media business development Vishal Shah, who spoke to Time Magazine in a story by Victor Luckerson (see here) said “Live games are certainly an option for us. It’s really figuring out the right distribution strategy on our end.”

Somehow most outlets did not pick up on that comment, which was walked back almost immediately by an NFL spokesperson but we reported on it here  and have been following ever since.

This game will likely be seen by fans as insignificant at the time that it takes place because of the stature of the teams involved and it likely non-impact on divisional standings unless Rex Ryan get the Bills off to a blistering start. But its place will be marked in history as the beginning of the end of the current distribution model for sports. The NFL has got to see the potential earnings that are lost by for instance Fox’s refusal to stream the NFC championship game to non-cable subscribers. This sort of thing cannot continue for the long term. To paraphrase Brian Singer’s X-Men streaming is the future not cable. And the NFL already has a house on that lot.

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Did you cut cable as a new years resolution after the Superbowl only to realize last week that the NCAA tournament puts 2/3 of the games on cable networks during the first week of March Madness? It’s ok. In fact there is a way to watch most of the frantic round of 64 without even spending a dime. After the first week though you will have to make a choice to pay for access going forward. How does this work? You can also stream any contest on CBS through the March Madness app and website. There is a link to the March Madness website in the Streaming Advisor’s sports links Here or at the top of this page. Obviously if you you can receive TV signals from an antenna you will be able to see games via CBS. And with Sling Television a service available through apps across a number of products you can see a majority of the opening round games utilizing the services free preview time. Depending on which device you use the preview can be for a full two weeks. Continue to learn more.

Looking to watch the NCAA tournament but are going to be stuck at work during the frantic first two days of the Tournament? Fear not. The March Madness Live App is back offering access to every single game of the tournament so that you don’t have to miss a well known program getting knocked off by a team you have to learn about on Wikipedia. The tournament will also stream from the March Madness Live Website. Users will be able to stream any game playing on CBS for free via the app. Contests on TruTV, TNT and TBS will require users to enter a valid participating TV provider password and user name. Get ready for production to come to a screeching stop. If you want to watch the NCAA Tournament online you can do so through the options listed below.

Add The March Madness App to your devices here
Amazon (Kindle Fire and Fire Phone) Add Here

Android Add Here

IOS (IOS 7.0 or higher required ) via the App store or Add Here 

March Madness Live Stream Website

View the games via your computer Click Here

Online services open the game up across the world

Ryan Michael Downey

NCAA LogoDo you want to watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament online without a cable subscription? You can with USTV Now. The service uses sling technology to send American network television around the world and the US via the Internet. USTV now users will be able to watch every game broadcast by CBS anywhere in the world.  Users outside of the United States can also fill out their brackets in real time. Unlike the Olympics and World Cup, college basketball is not a major draw overseas. This story will tell you how to watch all of the games from the CBS feed on a computer and how enjoy March Madness via a private channel for the Roku.

Want to watch Saturday’s NFL Playoff games? This year the NFL’s wildcard games will air on ESPN and NBC. Both have streaming options available. Enjoy your weekend. For multiple Sports Streaming options check out our Watch Sports Online Section in the tabs on top of the page or click here

The Carolina Panthers VS  the Arizona Cardinals
4:20 pm Eastern Time Watch ESPN Click Here

The Baltimore Ravens VS The Pittsburg Stealers
8:15 NBC Live Extra Click Here