Why the Slow Move to Live Streaming Sports?

My heart jumped when I realized that my latest move landed me in the cave of married friends’ duplex in Chicago without any means to watch March Madness. They did not want to get cable, which is cool, and meant to get rabbit ears at some time but never quite got around to it. I could have gone out and splurged on rabbit ears and that digital signal box but I really did not want to start feeding me television habit. So there I was stuck between my desire to watch endless hours of basketball and not wanting to spend needless money on something I was going to use for a couple weeks. Then I found that NCAA.com was streaming the games live and the heart murmur went subsided.

That was not meant to be an advertisement, but rather to dissect the situation that forced me to find the gloriousness of live streaming sports on the Internet. I am unfortunately an old curmudgeon despite being in my late twenties and am late to most technologies. I only switch when I am against the wall and must learn to use what the rest of the world has already embraced. Therefore, I think I make an excellent representation of the average network and middle-aged home audience member.

This has not been my first search for live games, but most often I found that my searches ended on sites that required me to pay money to subscribe and sites that were of a dubious nature and would spend most of the time buffering rather than showing any basketball or football action.

With NCAA.com, I think that watching the game live on my computer screen is actually superior to watching the games on television and just about equal with getting actual March Madness tickets (for the pure fun of being just being there).

I get to switch between games at will. No longer am I handcuffed by the producers at CBS deciding at which inopportune moment to change to a game I do not care about. I spent those glorious first two work days of the tournament with the games on in the background of my computer. I was forced to work a little longer to get all my work done, but even with just the sound I could enjoy college hoops and work.

This free service has been offered for the last four years by CBS and the NCAA, but many are just now catching wind of the option. The only cost for me is watching a 10 to 30 second ad when I switch, otherwise I get to see the same number of commercials as television viewers.

What boggles my mind is that the rest of the sports leagues have been slow to adopt this technology. Perhaps it is because of media contracts signed before they realized the potential of this movement or perhaps it is because they are afraid of losing drives of revenue.

I can only wonder what legal hurdles exist for the major leagues, the NBA, MLB, and the NFL, and the national and local networks. With regards to revenue I did find a Chicago Tribune article that found the difference between television and Internet revenues was still monumental. Television is supposed to bring in $650 million and the Internet streaming is supposed to bring in about $30 million.

Perhaps television network and league offices’ fear is that they will suffer the same fate as the newspaper business (going broke and out of business) if they give into to live streaming sports and television, but the other side is that they could deal with the huge losses of the record companies if they do not embrace this new option.

The networks and the leagues are moving forward cautiously though. Major networks are already letting sites like Hulu.com and TV.com- as well the network home pages- show programs the day after they have aired.

The leagues have some options as well. The NBA has the NBA League Pass, but the service is a subscription service. Right now it costs about $20 for the rest of the season (which includes the playoffs). MLB has a similar option called MLB.TV, with a yearly fee of $79.95 or a monthly fee of $14.95. The NFL is woefully behind, with only the Sunday game being streamed on NBCSports.com.

The danger is that the leagues might end up losing revenue anyway because tech savvy people under 30 will find a free site and watch the games for free. If the argument is that the computer screen is not the same as a big screen television, then they should realize that there are simple adaptors that can take the image on the laptop and transfer it to the humungous flat screen on the wall.

I think that these leagues and should begin to learn from the tournament. Take the games and show some commercials during the breaks. In time advertisers will realize that the Internet market is becoming more and more valuable and competition will rise for spots during the streaming, increasing revenue.

Many may notice some links to OnlineSeats in the article. Take heed, they are not meant to shape the article, but are necessary as a sponsor. You can find everything from Celtics tickets to the last few games of the season there or get Yankees tickets to celebrate the new season in the new ballpark. Even find Cubs tickets for great bleacher seats during the summer in Chicago or Red Sox seats to watch Boston’s continued sports dominance.