Sinclair, which owns numerous pay TV sports networks across the country under the brand Bally Sports, has finally launched its long-awaited streaming service to provide in-market streaming of its various regional sports networks. Access to the streaming service is totally dependent on where potential customers live, meaning it is not a nationally available streaming service. Games available are also based on where a customer lives. This should be a fascinating experiment.
Sinclair purchased the collection channels when Disney merged with 20th Century Fox. The networks dot the country providing coverage of NBA, NHL and MLB teams as part of longstanding contracts between what was exclusively cable networks. During the heyday of cable TV or peak cable, regional sports networks (RSNs) emerged to provide coverage of teams above and beyond what was provided via ESPN or local broadcast networks. But as cable subscriptions began to fall in the mid-2000s providers vegan to cut out RSNs because like other sports-centered networks, they cost the cable companies more money than they felt they were worth in comparison to general audience programming.
The company has been teasing the idea of a direct-to-consumer approach using streaming to allow customers to get ahold of network content as a solution to the lack of availability as well as an acknowledgment of the changing landscape of sports on TV. The question is whether it will work. Access to the service is totally dependent on where people live. The service has set up a website that allows potential customers to plug in their zip codes and see what they can access through a monthly or yearly subscription. See if you can get it in your area here. At the cost of $19.99 per month or $189.00 a year the service will deliver essentially the same programming that is available via the cable channels.
The move will either take of like a rocket or crash and burn
What observers wonder is whether there are enough dedicated sports fans to support this model and that is something we will not know for a few months. while $19.99 per month might seem like a hefty price for a sports network, if say you don’t like hockey and basketball, to a cord cutter or potentially one the idea that you can add access to a favorite team and get to see most of the regular season without cable or the bulky DirecTV Stream service is an intriguing offer. The WWE made a similar play when it launched the WWE Network for $10.00 to provide users with access to archives of its content on top of live premium events like Wrestle Mania. It has since worked out a deal with Peacock to do the same thing and maintains a strong audience for the organization and the Comcast-owned streamer. If the direct-to-consumer approach works out we should expect other RSNs to do the same. But there is another possibility as well.
Last week it was reported that the leagues themselves may be looking to purchase Bally Sports from Sinclair. According to the New York Post the subsidiary that owns the sports networks, Diamond Sports, is on the verge of bankruptcy. If it turns out that millions of people take the opportunity to pick up the service and enjoy their fandom maybe the bet will pay off. But if the service does not take off, users who invest in a year-long package may regret their decision.