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In 2016, Twitter won a $10 million dollar deal with the NFL to live stream 10 games. In fall 2017, Amazon won that same NFL contract but paid $50 million for live stream rights – more than double what Twitter paid. Millions of sports fans are cutting ties with cable in order to view sports live via the Internet. Whether social media or a platform like Amazon or Netflix, sports streaming signals a massive shift in the way that viewers watch sports.
Millions of viewers have started to watch sports through platforms like Facebook Live, Periscope and others creating a clear demand for live streamed sports. Until this past year, though, major leagues weren’t keeping up with the trend, resulting in millions of pirated live sports footage. In order to keep up with the streaming obsession, leagues like the NFL have begun to offer fans access to live streaming in a more controlled setting – and for a reasonable fee.
At the same time, leagues are starting to crack down on illegal versions of live streamed games. The NFL warned professional teams and players last fall that live streaming games via social media channels would result in steep fines ($25,000 for a first offense). Overzealous YouTube fans may also feel the sting of a hefty league fine when attempting to illegally stream games through the video channel.
At first, leagues didn’t know how to react to streaming. Cable sports subscription channels were the bread and butter of many cable companies (and, essentially, revenue for leagues), but now that viewers have clearly spoken up against high cable fees and a need for streamed sports, leagues have to keep up.
As the demand for streamed sports continues to grow so will the competition to legally stream live sports games. In addition to the deal that Twitter originally struck with the NFL (as noted above), other social media companies are getting in on the live action with Snapchat leading the pack. Snapchat has already struck deal with most of the major networks (ABC, ESPN, NBC and others) to live stream events year round.
Sports fans want more sports, more of the time, with more streaming options, and they want it live. The promise of live sports through subscription streaming services and social media creates a unique offer for sports fans – an offer that cable TV just can’t keep up with. Couple that with the clear message cable-subscribers are sending (cable subscriptions are projected to drop 4% in 2018).
In the near future, you can expect to see more streamed sports, more social and subscription sports services, and more access to almost any sport on the planet through your favorite streaming platform. This is great news for sports fans that want to see what’s happening in the world of sports from every angle – it’s also good news for leagues that have (albeit slowly) adapted to a world where live streaming brings more revenue by cutting back on pirated streams and providing viewers with the live access they want.