Over the last five years, the online streaming of sports has exploded to the point that watching a game or event online is now expected. If a game isn’t streamed at least on computers, there’s an uproar. Online rights have become a major part of media contracts.
In the latest NBA TV contract, both ESPN and TNT received increased rights to stream their regular season and playoff games as part of cable’s “TV Everywhere” initiative enabling more convenience for consumers allowing them to watch programs on computers, mobile phones and tablets.
The NFL has been stingy about online rights first allowing NBC to stream Sunday Night Football, then giving ESPN the right to put Monday Night Football online, eventually expanding to all partners, but not all are taking advantage. CBS is not streaming its AFC games while Fox is only streaming in-market games on Fox Sports Go. DirecTV is allowed to stream out-of-market games through its NFL Sunday Ticket package. And on mobiles, the NFL has opted to keep its mobile rights in-house and contract them to Verizon. The Super Bowl began streaming in 2012 and will be streamed from now on.
As for MLB, it’s a bit complicated as all games are streamed through MLB.TV. ESPN managed to get rights to its games as did Fox and TBS, but it was a fight to get them from MLB Advanced Media which has the rights to all games. Only last year did TBS get permission to stream its postseason games. Fox is doing so but only on the Fox Sports Go app. TBS’ playoff games are also streamed on MLB.TV and the MLB At Bat app.
And the NHL has different streaming rules in Canada and the United States. Rogers has rights to all NHL games and distributes the games on its app in conjunction with the NHL. In the United States, Verizon has mobile rights. Tablet rights are owned by the NHL. However, NBC does have the rights to stream its games on its app.
ESPN has been aggressive in obtaining rights and streaming its linear channels through WatchESPN. And it’s been obtaining rights to various sports like the CFL, cricket, tennis and others that are seen on ESPN3 only.
Here is what is streamed by each network and not all are available nationwide. That depends if your cable and satellite provider has an agreement with the respective network:
Big Ten Network — Linear channel available on BTN app with cable and satellite provider authentication.
CBS Sports — SEC football, selected college basketball games, NCAA Tournament, some PGA Tour events.
ESPN/ABC — Linear ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, Longhorn Network, SEC Network, SEC Network Plus on WatchESPN. Also has online exclusives on ESPN3 (college sports, cricket, soccer, tennis).
Fox Sports — Linear Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 channels, College Football, College Basketball, Big East sports, all Fox Sports broadcast programming, MLB, in-market NFL games, NASCAR, international soccer, some Fox College Sports events.
Golf Channel — Linear Golf Channel is available on Golf Channel Live Extra and NBC Sports Live Extra.
MLB Network — Limited streaming. Its two postseason games were available on MLB.TV with cable or satellite provider authentication.
NBC Sports — Dan Patrick Show, English Premier League (on-air and Extra Time games), Formula 1, IndyCar, MLS, NASCAR (2015), NHL, Notre Dame football, Olympics, PGA Tour, Sunday Night Football. NBCSN linear channel not streamed.
NFL Network — Linear channel on NFL Mobile tablet app with cable and satellite provider authentication. Mobile streaming on Verizon phones.
Tennis Channel — Linear channel streamed on Tennis Channel app with authentication. Subscription required for events not televised live.
Turner Sports — MLB (WatchTBS app), NBA (WatchTNT app), NCAA Tournament (streamed on NCAA.com, NCAA Tournament app, WatchTBS, WatchTNT and WatchtruTV apps), PGA Championship (WatchTNT and PGA Championship apps). All require cable and satellite provider authentication.
Universal Sports — Linear channel streamed on Universal Sports app with cable and satellite provider authentication. Olympic sports not televised streamed online.
Will we see local regional networks streamed? That depends if they can get the local online rights from their respective teams and leagues. As for now, the leagues own the local games and if they can come to an agreement with the cable providers and the RSN’s, it may open up in-market streaming, but for now, we still have to watch on TV.