jim miller, dan patrick

With more and more viewers canceling their cable packages (or not signing up for them in the first place), the cable television industry is facing a breaking point.

And though sports—which demand to be watched live—are the most reliable programming on cable, the collapse of the cable bundle will necessarily force sports rights-holders to tweak or overhaul their distribution model.

On Wednesday, sports media reporter and author Jim Miller appeared on the Dan Patrick Show to discuss the changing sports media landscape. As part of that conversation, he predicted a very different (and very interesting) future for watching sports:

“I have a feeling, you know you go on iTunes and you buy an album or a song, and you pay $1.99 for the song? We could be looking at a situation where you go on your phone, you go on your laptop and you buy that game. So you don’t have an NBA pass for the entire season or you don’t have some big cable bill but you do everything from your own customization point of view. So whatever you want. And it doesn’t even mean you have to tie yourself into a particular league. Just like you go on iTunes and pick out a song, you can pick out, ‘OK, I want to watch the Warriors and the Cavs tonight, and I’ll pay $3.99 for that game or two bucks or whatever.’

“The one thing that we know for sure is that this is an incredibly dynamic moment in time. Technology is now… it’s disrupted the very foundations of the model, where we have to reexamine.”

Patrick then brought up the idea of a “sports vending machine” with dynamic prices, and Miller compared the potential market to StubHub or Uber, where prices fluctuate with demand.

Obviously the sports world is familiar with the pay-per-view concept, which we see often for boxing bouts on premium channels. However, you’d imagine a la carte sporting events would be a last resort for sports leagues and rights holders, who would presumably prefer 1) The existing cable bundle, 2) a package of sports channels or 3) a system in which viewers subscribe to watch entire leagues, as with NBA League Pass or MLB.tv.

Pay-per-view programming would drive extinct the type of viewers who just casually turn on a sporting event in the background of whatever else they’re doing. Fans would probably focus more on the games they’re watching but would almost certainly watch far fewer games.

In addition to his thoughts on an iTunes-style pay-per-view, Miller discussed with Patrick his fears that safety concerns will hurt the NFL’s long-term future.

“I have a feeling that all of these sports, in their own ways, are going to be reexamining their financial models,” he said.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.

  • Jeremy W

    i could see the NBA MLB NHL Doing that but the big 3 if they had to would pay 5 or 10 billion for the NFL games

    as without the NFL no Direct TV Ticket and it would cripple the network on sunday

    what the leagues souold do is keep everything in house ex NFL Network spins off into 15 cannels each sunday where each game has their own channel like sunday ticket but make each game 4 channels 1 home team radio 2 away team radio 3 sound on the field 4 a spit-screen with all 3

    red zone wouild stay

  • Jeremy W

    how i wouild fix the NFL

    1 Lower tickets
    2 2 bye weeks and your thurday night game wouild be after the first bye week
    3 have 53 guys on gameday roster
    4 sorry pats fans this is this is the new Engald rule if your team makes the playoffs 10 years in a row they have to miss number 11
    1 more new engald rule no massive hometown discount like tom Brady must set the market like Brady true market would be 25 or 26 mil a year at least

    5 way less tv timeouts like 3 a game 1 after each q and Haiftime wouild be 15 min of just advisement
    6 1 way to reward playoff teams if u make the playoffs for each round u get a comp pick like NE wouild get 4 this year

  • MrBull

    Just two or three years ago the ‘talk’ was about how live tv sports was the ‘tv ratings draw’…and now it is down and out?…
    the problem is it is the viewers who are ‘fair weather watchers’ helped inflate the ratings and add into the mix those who are indeed cutting the cable cord…
    The cable cord cutters are effecting not just sports but all tv programs when they drop cable tv for other viewing means…
    March Madness ratings will be interesting gauge to see where are at…but, end of the day tv sports will always be available as they have as no one will buy the pay per view concept….

  • I think that having pay-per-view only is a bad business for several sports that rely on casual fans.

    If season passes are cheap enough, peopl;e will buy them just in case. And if these are bundled, even more so.

    See for example SlingTV and similar services, where you get most sports for 20-40 dollars. That’s pretty good business.