Hulu may no longer just be the place to go for recent TV shows you missed, all 180 episodes of Seinfeld or new episodes of The Mindy Project. The online streaming provider announced earlier this month that it will develop a package that will offer live broadcast and cable programming. When such a service rolls out, those who have either cut the cord from cable or satellite and want the same sort of content available via live stream will finally have the option they’ve been seeking.
But to truly take on cable and satellite, and convince the TV viewing audience to cut the cord in greater numbers, a streaming service like the one Hulu is working on will likely have to expand into sports programming to be a viable alternative. That’s according to analysts at Citi, who believe the conventional thinking that over-the-top and streaming services would kill networks like ESPN and regional sports channels is actually looking at the situation the wrong way.
“[Wall] Street tends to think sports-centric cable networks [with their long, fixed-price contracts] face the greatest risk from cord-cutting,” Citi analysts wrote (via Business Insider’s Nathan McAlone). “We think the market may have it backwards. The firms that face the greatest risk may be networks that don’t have any sports rights.”
That line of thinking certainly makes sense upon further review. Regional sports networks paying millions of dollars for live rights packages because that program typically has to be viewed live for fans to enjoy the experience with fellow fans and to stay current with events. Watching later on via DVR doesn’t provide the same shared experience, especially if you’re a second- and third-screen type of viewer now, commenting and looking for response on social media.
More than that, however, the Citi analysts maintain that streaming outlets will be able to offer a more interactive component than simply watching on live TV can provide (even if you’re chattering with thousands of other fans on Twitter and Facebook.) Statistics and player profiles can be pulled up on demand during the game. Viewers will be able to watch highlights almost instantaneously, in addition to choosing customized angles for live play or replays. And if you do miss the game (or want to watch more), streaming outlets can also provide archival footage, adding even more value than a traditional live TV package can offer.
Networks and streaming providers like Hulu would have to negotiate those rights, but viewers are more likely to pay a premium for channels with live rights to sporting events and can thus charge fees to make such arrangements agreeable for all involved. The interactive components that could potentially be available would surely take some time to develop and might not be offered initially. But that would surely create incentive for broadcast and cable networks with live sports programming to provide such features as quickly as possible, helping to create further demand for their product.
Estimated pricing for such a live TV streaming service has ranged from $30 to $40 per month, according to media reports and industry analysts. Is that a price point which could give viewers looking to ditch cable the final nudge they need?