Thus far, the major sports leagues have dipped their proverbial toes in the water in putting games online. They’ve sold various games here and there. Now they’re hoping that the tech giants will be ready to start bidding on live sports in the same manner the TV networks have been. Last month, we reported that Silicon Valley might not be the white knight that the leagues have been looking for, but that’s not stopping them from keeping hope alive.
Cable networks have taken over from the broadcast networks in airing the majority of live games, but when it comes to championship events, MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL still put their finals on broadcast TV. MLB and the NFL have experimented in selling smaller packages like weekly games to Facebook and Twitter and in the NFL’s case, single games to Verizon and Yahoo.
But as we approach the 2017 NFL season, Amazon will take over the Thursday Night Football streaming package that Twitter had last year. And the NFL will watch closely how the company’s Prime members will flock to the games.
If the tech companies want to make a play for an exclusive package, they may have to produce the games themselves, but the question is, would they want to? The TV networks pay billions annually to air the NFL and produce the games. Amazon is paying $50 million this year for Thursday Night Football and Verizon paid reportedly over $20 million for its exclusive NFL game from London, but the TV networks will produce the content.
Earlier this year, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said the NFL’s future lies in over the top streaming and the league has sold its Canadian digital rights to a European online entity which will distribute its pay package online without TV involved. Is this a first step by the NFL in this direction?
All of the leagues allow fans to watch their out-of-market subscription packages online, but they are all marketed with TV in mind. As more people cut the cord, will the sports leagues follow and sell an exclusive package of games just for the tech companies? It takes two to tango and while sports league might be willing to dance, one of the online outlets will have to step up and seize the opportunity? It’s all one big unknown right now.