In this digital age, live streaming has gained prominence. There’s live streaming of sports through networks like ESPN and Fox Sports, along with streaming services such as college sports on Stadium and Hulu, which offers live sports from broadcast networks and cable outlets like Big Ten Network. Even social media is getting into the act by streaming sports, such as Twitter with the WNBA (and last season’s Thursday Night Football package).
Streaming is now considered a vital part of the sports viewing experience and it will only keep growing. Let’s take a look at some of the streaming deals in 2017, plus other news that involved sports and tech.
STREAMING SERVICES GAIN SUBSCRIBERS
As cable loses subscribers due to cord cutting, streaming services are slowly picking up the slack. DirecTV Now launched last year and it’s now reached 1 million subscribers. Other services like fuboTV, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV and YouTube TV have slowly but surely gained momentum.
With 2018 approaching, there’s no doubt that these services will bring in more people to their folds. The streaming services are picking up more local network affiliates and will be able to show NFL games on smartphones starting next year.
AMAZON PICKS UP THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL RIGHTS
Back in April, the NFL announced a one-season deal with Amazon for the service to stream Thursday Night Football, taking over for Twitter which had the rights in 2016. Amazon’s numbers haven’t been earth-shattering, but has led the company to buy other sports properties like men’s tennis and pro beach volleyball. There’s a possibility that the NFL rights could lead Amazon to bid for the UK rights to the English Premier League as well.
DISNEY BUYS INTO BAMTECH GIVING IT A 75% STAKE IN THE COMPANY
Back in August, Disney exercised an option to buy 42% of BAMTech, increasing its share to 75 percent. The company was developed by Major League Baseball and the base for many online services like WatchESPN, WWE Network, HBO GO and others. With Disney now the majority owner, it will lead to the development of new streaming services.
ESPN ANNOUNCES NEW STANDALONE STREAMING SERVICE IN 2018
At the same time Disney announced its plans to buy more of BAMTech, it also unveiled plans to launch two over-the-top services, one that would rival Netflix will contain Disney’s movies as well as the Star Wars series and Marvel films. The other is an ESPN service that would be sold directly to consumers. The ESPN service would not be like the WatchESPN apps that offer the linear ESPN channels, but have college and pro sports plus some international events. It will be unveiled sometime in 2018.
CBS SPORTS TO LAUNCH A NEW 24/7 SPORTS NEWS CHANNEL
CBS has been aggressive in its online plans. It already has the CBS All Access app which streams original content and the online feeds of the network’s local affiliates. CBS also streams a 24/7 online news channel. CBS CEO Les Moonves announced that CBS will launch a sports news channel that will eventually be streamed on the All Access platform.
So far, there’s been no official launch date announced, nor who will be the main anchors of the service.
TURNER SPORTS TO LAUNCH STANDALONE SOCCER SERVICE
Last year, Turner Sports won the rights to the UEFA Champions and Europa Leagues. As Fox Sports is in a lame-duck year for UEFA, Turner announced that it would launch a service that would stream the Champions and Europa League games that won’t be shown on television as well as other content. Bleacher Report will be part of the Turner Sports service.
VERIZON RENEWS RIGHTS TO STREAM NFL GAMES ON SMARTPHONES
Just this month, the NFL and Verizon officially announced the renewal of a deal that began in 2013. But unlike its current deal, the new contract, which takes effect next month, will allow other wireless carriers to stream the games. Verizon had exclusive mobile rights, but that changes with the new deal. Verizon will stream games on its Yahoo and go90 apps, as well as the NFL app.
There were other deals as well. Facebook is streaming college basketball games through a deal with Stadium and also had a weekly MLB game. Not to be outdone, Twitter also had a MLB streaming deal. The social media service also had rights to the Arena Football League.
And 2018 will bring even more streaming to the masses, as the NFL’s TV partners expect to stream their games on mobile devices, something they couldn’t do with the previous Verizon deal. Plus, the Winter Olympics in February will bring critical mass to U.S. viewers.
The fact that we can watch games where we want and when we want is a big deal. It’s something that was practically unheard as recently as 15 years ago, but in that short time, we’re now watching live events on all types of devices. This year was hard evidence that watching games without a TV was not just possible, but something that has come to be expected and provided.