OPINION: Televised Sports Changing For Worse



A deal signed last week between the NHL and ESPN may have signaled the beginning of the end of televised sports as we know it.

As a result of a seven-year deal between the two sporting titans, ESPN Plus will now effectively replace NHL.TV as the out-of-market streaming service for more than 1,000 NHL games each season. ESPN and ABC also acquired exclusive rights to 25 national regular-season games each season, while 75 games each year will be exclusively on ESPN Plus and Hulu. The Stanley Cup Final also will be exclusively on ABC for four of the seven years, with the option to simulcast on other linear ESPN Networks.

The deal is the latest step in a gradual shift of entertainment properties into niche streaming platforms as on-demand entertainment supplants channel-surfing on cable.

Cord-cutting favored consumers early-on, but steadily Disney and other content creators have been pulling their own content from platforms like Netflix to house behind their own streaming paywall. Gone are the days of the cable bill for many, but in their place are subscriptions to half-a-dozen or more streaming services that add up quickly.

This NHL-ESPN deal is likely going to lead to significant headaches for year-round sports viewers. Want to get your football fix on Thursday, Sunday and Monday? We could be looking at separate streaming fees for FOX, CBS, NBC and ESPN in the not-too-distant future. Watching a noon CBS game, followed by FOX’s America’s Game of the Week and NBC’s Sunday Night Football could realistically at this point be on three different services with three different bills. Even if you just want the Packers game you may be out of luck, or out another $10 a month just to see one Monday Night Football game.

That is just for one sport, too. The NBA, MLB, NCAA tournament games and more could be similarly divided between their broadcast partners.

Cable was always, to a degree, paying for some stuff you wanted and a lot of stuff you did not. However, the streaming rights compartmentalization of sports may soon mean you are paying two or three times for the things you want, and not getting as much for it.

If only there was a service that bundled a lot of these networks together so you could pay one flat rate and be done with it. Wait a minute...I just reinvented cable.

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